Jan 30, 2017

Turning ‘poop’ into fuel

Accessibility to sanitation facilities in Kenya still remains a challenge for many. One in seven million people worldwide still practise open defecation. A report by World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) 2015, estimates that only 30 per cent (31 per cent of urban and 30 per cent of rural), which is over 21 million people in Kenya, still use unsanitary or shared latrines.

Sanivation is a social enterprise in Naivasha, Kenya that aims at providing sanitation services to not only improve the environmental health of the urban and peri-urban population, but also serve as a source of fuel. The service involves free toilet installation in homes at an affordable monthly service fee of Ksh200 which is paid via M-pesa.

Human waste is collected and brought back to the processing facility. Active human waste is put in a red zone before being treated through solar heating to kill pathogens. The treated waste is then transformed into briquettes that are sold to local businesses and households. The production process from waste to fuel takes five days.

The Founders, Emily Woods and Andrew Foote, met as undergraduate students at Georgia Tech Research Institute. Working in Naivasha as a sanitation engineer, Woods heard the community members’ dissatisfaction with pit latrines and saw an opportunity to implement a new sanitation system.

In 2014, Foote joined her in Naivasha, where they were inspired to develop the Sanivation waste-to-fuel model after learning that community members wanted to cook using solar energy. With massive deforestation occurring throughout the country, 80 percent of urban families in Kenya rely on charcoal; the population in Naivasha County spends over 30 percent of their income on charcoal to cook. Using charcoal indoors pollutes the air and causes health complications. Woods and Foote realized that transforming waste into briquettes was a viable alternative in providing clean energy that burns longer and produces less smoke. Rose wastes is carbonised to create an energy dense charcoal dust which is then mixed with the liquefied faeces to make the briquettes.  

Their briquettes are the first in Nakuru County to be certified by Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). They have 15 regular customers who purchase the briquettes. The client base is growing at the rate of five to six new consumers in a month. The company sells approximately 150 bags of briquettes in a month. Since inception, there are 350 households using Sanivation toilets in Karagita, Naivasha County. The toilets are also being adopted by Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres.

Sanivation has a sales team that goes through intensive training on how to target customers. They have also opened a new plant in Kakuma Refugee Camp where they are using the same concept of providing the toilets and using the waste to make briquettes which are used as cooking fuel in the camp.

The company is working on building a bigger solar concentrator that will treat 15 tonnes of active human waste at a go. They are looking into expanding their operations to other counties in order to provide sanitation solutions to more people at an affordable rate. Sanivation is working towards selling their products and services to municipalities, county governments and flower farms. The company would also like to forge partnerships and networks with large organisations or multinationals who advocate for sanitation. This will assist in scaling up of the company from the knowledge gained through the interaction.

 

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