Uber, But For Poop
Reason magazine|November 2018
Uber, But For Poop

EVERYBODY POOPS, BUT not everybody has to deal with a cartel when trying to dispose of it.

Jay Stooksberry

This is a widespread problem for residents of Dakar, capital of Senegal. The city’s sanitation relies heavily upon septic tanks and latrine pits, which have to be routinely emptied. If not drained on a frequent basis, the latrine systems overflow, wreaking (or reeking?) havoc on residents.

Roaming the city are large tanker trucks equipped with industrial pumps to extract human waste. Driving these trucks are individuals known as “toilet suckers.” These men work together as an association with fixed prices and a collective noncompete agreement. In other words, they are a cartel. The truckers congregate at central locations in various communities in Dakar, where local residents can approach them about their services. Costs range from the equivalent of $40 to $60 depending on the size of the pit.

For many residents in Dakar, 46 percent of whom live below the poverty line, paying for this service eats up a significant chunk of their incomes. A lot of people are reduced to—for a lack of better words— illegal dumping, where they drain their own pits and bury the waste in holes they dig, usually in alley ways.


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November 2018