Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 17:36 UK

Man wins prize for 'elephant loo'

Ian Thorpe with his medal
Ian Thorpe has won the prestigious prize for the second time

A Yorkshire man has come first in an international competition for his elephant-shaped toilet.

Ian Thorpe, 40, from Birstall, West Yorks, won the 25,700 top prize in the St Andrew's Prize for the Environment.

Named for its elephant looking ear and trunk shape, the device is made from discarded objects and its waste products used to fertilise the ground.

The toilets cost 20 each to build and can be made using objects such as plastic bottles and old ballpoint pens.

Mr Thorpe is co-founder and international director of Pump Aid, a charity which helps rural communities in Africa establish sustainable clean water supplies and environmentally-friendly sanitation.

He said: "With a pilot for 1,000 elephant toilets, 20,000 people will benefit in southern Malawi."

Elephant toilet
The toilet will be part of cleaner plumbing in developing countries

Launched in 1998, the St Andrew's Prize for the Environment is an initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland, which recognises significant contributions to environmental conservation.

Mr Thorpe won the prize in 2005 with his elephant pump, a cost-effective and sustainable water pump based on a 2,000 year old Chinese design.

He said: "It is a great honour to have our work recognised by some of the leading figures in the field for the second time."

As a student at St Aidan's Church of England School in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Mr Thorpe heard a talk which prompted him to spend a gap year teaching in Zimbabwe.

Two of his pupils died of dysentery contracted from polluted water. Since then he has concentrated on finding a viable solution to the problem of a lack of clean water.

Pump Aid was formed in 1999 and provides employment for 130 people in Zimbabwe and Malawi.

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