People don’t like to talk about faecal waste management.

But in Bangladesh it’s the key to improving lives and the environment.

Active Project








Title: Public private partnership for sustainable sludge management services in Faridpur 

Dates: Nov. 2014 – Dec 2017 (Phase 1); Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2020 (Phase 2) – now extended until Sept. 2022. 

Location: Faridpur, Bangladesh 

Our role: Practical Action is collaborating with sanitary waste workers and the local authorities to transform the way the city’s faecal sludge is processed and treated, and improve the health, safety and status of workers. We’re also working to change public attitudes toward those working in the toilet waste sector. 

Participants: 561,150 city residents, including toilet pit emptiers, representatives from local Government, practitioners and the general public.

Value: USD $1,188,470 (Phase 1); and USD $2,221,000 (Phase 2)

Aim: Cities Fit For People 

Donor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

The Challenge

In Bangladesh there is almost universal access to a basic toilet, but the poo this generates was causing huge problems: polluting the environment, and risking the health and dignity of those employed to clean it up.

  • With no local authority waste disposal system in place, it was difficult to enforce correct procedures for removing waste.
  • There was a lack of understanding around where your waste should go, and what happens to it after you flush, – no one knew what to do with the poo.
  • The contents of septic tanks were being emptied by bare hand, with no protection and often dumped into local rivers and onto wasteland, causing serious environmental hazards.
  • Pit-emptiers, known as ‘Sweepers’, were forced to work in dangerous conditions, handling toxic substances without access to protective clothing. In 2015, 31 workers died.
  • Jobs in this sector can be irregular and wages low, as there is no set rate for freelance pit and tank emptying services.
  • Sweepers often found themselves and their families excluded from society due to the nature of their work.


“Some places we work in provide no water to clean ourselves. We are asked to go to the river or stream to get ourselves cleaned. The shops don’t provide us water as well. They don’t want to serve us tea.”

Idris Mollah, Faridpur, Bangladesh

The Ingenious Solution

In Faridpur, the key to successfully revolutionising the waste management in the city was to change attitudes. This project succeeded in making both the authorities and the community more accountable for cleaning up waste, as well as creating a new, organic fertiliser in the process.

Successful initiatives and interventions:

  • A city-wide campaign involving competitions, rallies, debates and even a TV show helped raise awareness of the waste problem among the local population and change attitudes towards pit-emptiers (‘sweepers’).
  • A new faecal sludge treatment plant was installed, with the capacity to process 24 cubic metres of faecal waste per day.
  • Collaboration with sweepers resulted in the development of new de-sludging equipment, including hand pumps and vacutag trucks which allow the tanks to be emptied without the sweepers having to touch the untreated waste. The trucks were provided in compact sizes to ensure they suitability for the narrow streets of the city.
  • We helped the sweepers establish a formal business, increasing their planning skills and improving health and safety protocols at work which led to better incomes. This more formal status is also helping increase their status within society and opened direct communication with the Mayor of Faridpur.
  • A micro-savings programme was introduced for members, allowing them to purchase land for permanent premises.
  • Representatives of the municipal authority pledged their commitment to improving faecal waste management systems via the programme.
  • Dried sludge is now processed into low-cost, high-quality organic compost, which is sold to local farmers.
  • This model has also been recommended to the national faecal waste management framework to begin scaling up.

“Because of of the vacutag truck, we don’t stink anymore. We are all a bit better because of the truck.”

Idris Mollah, Faridpur, Bangladesh

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