The chain reaction of Bristol’s Community Toilet Scheme

4.2 billion people on our planet are living without access to safely managed sanitation.  A lot of us here in Bristol take our access to a toilet for granted, but this is a human right from which 2.4 billion people worldwide are excluded.

The United Nations first declared World Toilet Day an observance in 2013 in order to raise awareness of these vital issues and to celebrate the humble toilet as the unsung hero of sanitation. Toilets have a key role to play in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. A lack of toilets affects education, health, economic development and the environment. We cannot afford to wash our hands of this global crisis.

Closer to home, the UK has witnessed a depletion in the number of council-operated toilet facilities. Despite national cuts to Bristol’s budget, we have safeguarded and upgraded public toilet provision in our parks. We have also worked to transfer toilets on the Downs to the Downs Committee and Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust. Conscious of concerns, particularly from the elderly and disabled, who generally require access to public toilets more frequently, we decided to take the plunge with the Community Toilet Scheme – an initiative to improve public access to free toilets.

With this offer we asked the city, local businesses, community groups and other organisations to help us replace our previous model and improve on it. Three years on and the scheme is on a roll with 185 community toilets signed up (nearly double the figure last year!) across 26 wards, with 85% of these accessible. Many toilets in this scheme are open for longer than the previous public facilities and are better cared for, providing higher levels of sanitation for residents.

A full public toilet map can be found here, and you can search for toilets with adult changing facilities here. We’ve also co-produced a paper brochure in collaboration with Bristol Ageing Better for those that don’t have internet access.

Bristol’s Community Toilet Scheme has been called one of the most successful schemes in the country by the British Toilet Association and we are still continuing to invite new businesses and organisations to join.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the Community Toilet Scheme is temporarily suspended as the majority of the participating businesses will be shut from 5 November to 2 December during the second lockdown. But public toilets in some of our parks remain open and you can find a list here.

We are extremely proud of our city and all who have participated in making this scheme a success. It’s an example of how our city can overcome challenges and find solutions when we work together. To sign up your business or organisation to the Community Toilet Scheme, or to find out more, visit: http://www.bristol.gov.uk/business-support-advice/join-the-community-toilet-scheme