In disaster zones, the most basic human needs are difficult to meet. Disruptions to infrastructure imperil the distribution of food, energy, water–and sewage. Compared to drinking water, flushing toilets are low on the priority list, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. So the Japanese design firm Nendo has designed a new product that helps disaster victims relieve themselves discreetly and manage waste safely: The Minimlet.
“A major problem for people living in the evacuation shelters was not only that the transport network was paralyzed, food was in short supply and electricity, gas and water supply infrastructures were disrupted, but also that there was a lack of toilets,” Nendo explains on its website.
When the firm set out to rethink toilets for disaster shelters in urban settings, it took stock of problems with existing designs. Namely, they’re big, heavy, and clunky, which makes them a logistical challenge to distribute. The Minimlet, in contrast, is conceived as a compact kit of parts–a seat, collapsible aluminum pole, nylon drop cloth, tissue, and plastic bags–that’s augmented with readily available staples, like soda cans, umbrellas, and plastic water bottles.
Nendo purposefully made the kit–which all fits into a carrying case that can also transport water–adaptable. The C-shaped seat can be supported three ways: by resting it atop cans, plastic water bottles, or the four aluminum supports Nendo designed. The aluminum supports also screw together to create a pole onto which a user can clip an umbrella or drape the nylon cloth for privacy. The cloth can also be worn like a poncho to offer privacy while someone is sitting on the toilet. When they’re done, they dispose of the plastic bag.
This design–which Nendo created for the Japanese brand Sugita Ace–offers a clever solution to an uncomfortable situation.