Latrine Lining

In some ground conditions pit latrines can be impossible to or dangerous to dig because of collapsing soils. Supported excavations are common throughout the developed world, but these solutions are typically too heavy and require too much specialist machinery to be suitable for humanitarian use. A new solution for pit latrines in emergencies is required that can be flown and installed quickly. As such, the solution should be a complete kit not requiring any material sourcing in country.

Two distinct types of soil collapse need to be prevented by the lining and may these may require two different products:

  1. Crumbly sand at the top of the excavation, meaning that the lining need only support the top 500mm of the excavation.
  2. Unstable soil for the entire depth, meaning that a full depth solution is required. As pit latrines rely on liquid infiltrating the surrounding soil at least the bottom half of this lining must be permeable.

There are also two distinct types of latrine used in emergency situations:

  1. Trench Latrines
  2. Individual Latrines

Each of these may require their own solution, or one product might be developed that is adaptable for all circumstances.

Testing of Trench Linings in the UK
Oxfam tested three different linings in Wales with the assistance of Shelter & Construction Consultants. Using a digger Oxfam tested them to destruction, which resulted in one of the linings being found inadequate and development of it was discontinued (circular pit linings by Newcastle University). The Dunster, Oxford Plastics and Even Product latrine lining kits are awaiting trial in South Sudan (delayed due to logistic and security constraints).Their concepts are presented in the images below.

Dunster Lining

Oxform Plastic Liner

Oxford Plastics 

Even Lining

Even Products

Read our report on testing the trench linings in Wales

pit lining test

Design Criteria

Nature of solution An all-in-one kit for supporting pit latrine pits in poor soil conditions.
Soil types Pit latrines are only used above the water table. For design purposes, a sandy soil can be assumed.
Depth of lining The lining may either support the top 500mm of the pit, or extend to the full depth, typically 2-3m. Ideally, the solution will be usable in either configuration and adaptable in depth.
Strength For a lightweight lining to be strong enough to line the pit, it is likely to need bracing. These should be lightweight and easy to handle.
Durability Pit latrines are a very aggressive environment. The solution should last for at least 2 years, although ideally longer. It will be single use only and will not be used in more than one pit.
Excavation Size and shape Solutions are needed to accommodate both individual pit latrines and blocks of latrines which may share the same pit. For individual pits a circular excavation is structurally superior, but may be more difficult to pack for shipping.
Connection with slab and superstructure The standard plastic slab that Oxfam currently uses is rectangular measuring 1200 x 800mm. The excavation will allow slabs of this size to be installed on top.
Size and Weight The solution should be as small and light as possible for air freight, and the solution should ideally fit on a EUR-pallet. As a guide, air freight can cost £1-6 per kilogram or £0.20-£1.00 per litre, whichever is greater. On arrival in the country, the solution will need to be man-handleable.
Construction method The solution should be easy to use. Pit latrines are normally dug using spades and pickaxes.
Local Materials The solution should be a complete kit, not requiring any materials to be sourced in country.
Cost There is no fixed price which will be paid for this. As a guide, solutions costing more than £50 / unit are unlikely to be considered.

The design criteria above outline the envisaged solution, but we are also keen to hear of any radical alternatives.

Tell us your idea

If you have any products, ideas or would like to become involved in the latrine lining project please get in touch with:

Jenny Lamb, Emergency Sanitation Researcher at Oxfam