The Future of Sanitation

Forum for discussion related to excreta disposal approaches.

The Future of Sanitation

Postby Merlin » 08 May 2011 13:08

I'm pretty excited to see what comes out of the Gates Foundation “Create the Next Generation of Sanitation Technologies” challenge. A total of 26 projects have just been selected, each receiving US$ 100,000. I'll be watching the projects closely and would be interested to hear your thoughts on the final selection.

The 26 winning new sanitation technology projects are as follows:

1. "Lego" like Sanitation System: Pit Latrines Made of Biocomposites
Antonio Avila of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil proposes to develop building blocks made from biocomposites that will replace conventional brick/cement constructions for pit latrines. The team will test their strength and their rate of biodegradation to determine their suitability for building latrines that will decompose once the pits are filled, allowing for the eventual reintroduction of the land for farming and other community uses.

2. A Low-Cost Decentralized Sanitary System
Bin Fan of the Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences in China seeks to develop a decentralized sanitation system which uses a low-cost waterless, vacuum system to collect excrement and kitchen waste. The combined waste can then be processed into organic fertilizer.

3. Algae for the Effective and Economical Treatment of Waste
Natalie Cookson and colleagues at Quantitative BioSciences in the U.S. are developing an algae-based waste treatment system targeted for third-world applications. Cyanobacteria will treat a community’s waste and produce two forms of renewable energy: nutrient-rich fertilizer to enhance agriculture and biomethane to power the facility and neighboring community.
GGC - Treating Algae.jpg
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4. An Energy-Producing Waterless Toilet System
Virginia Gardiner of Loowatt Ltd. in the United Kingdom will develop a waterless toilet that seals waste into a portable cartridge within biodegradable film, for local anaerobic digestion. The digester produces fuel and fertilizer, creating local waste treatment economies. More info: LooWatt
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5. Decentralized Next Generation Sanitation for Diarrheal Pathogens
James Blackburn of Southern Illinois University in the U.S. will test a wind turbine-driven sanitation system for its ability to raise and maintain temperatures in an insulated container for the removal of pathogens in human waste.

6. Design of Microorganisms with Semiconducting Membranes
Guillermo Bazan of the University of California, Santa Barbara in the U.S. proposes to introduce artificial molecular wires (AMWs) into a waste treatment system as a way to not only break down organic contaminants in human waste, but also catalytically convert the energy present in those microbes into electrical energy for local needs.
GGC - Dirt Batteries.jpg
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7. Develop a Simple Auger-Die Assembly That Treats Fecal Wastes
Gary Foutch and AJ Johannes of Oklahoma State University in the U.S. propose to develop a small-scale device in which an auger forces feces and other solid wastes device through a die that results in high temperatures and pressure that dewaters the waste and destroys microorganisms.

8. Developing Fortified Excreta Pellets for Use in Agriculture
Olufunke Cofie of the International Water Management Institute in Ghana will develop and test fortified fertilizer pellets from treated human excreta for market sale. If successful, the production at large scale would enhance agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa.

9. Ecological Sanitation for the Base of the Pyramid
Elmer Sayre of the WAND Foundation in the Philippines will explore how to close the loop between sanitation, health and food consumption by testing low-cost dry toilets appropriate for most conditions and using the human waste in small-scale agriculture efforts.
GGC - WAND Foundation.jpg
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10. High Efficiency, Sanitary Toilet with Sewage Treatment
Peter Dreher of Livvon LLC in the U.S. will develop and test a simple toilet with integrated sewage treatment that employs a hand crank to dewater feces and turn it into dry, odorless pellets that can be used for fertilizer or fuel. The air-tight system will also control odor and keep out flies and vermin.

11. Hybrid Anaerobic Digester-Microbial Fuel Cell for Energy & Nutrient Capture
Leonard Tender of the Naval Research Laboratory in the U.S. proposes to develop a low-cost wastewater treatment system comprised of an anaerobic digester that generates organically rich acids to power a microbial fuel cell.

12. Integrated Mobile Sanitation Solutions in Peri-Urban Setting
Kory Russel and Sebastien Tilmans of Stanford University in the U.S. are designing a consumer-driven line of latrines that double as containment and transport systems for fecal wastes. The latrines will be low-cost, mass-producible, and easy to ship, enabling various sanitation services and collection businesses to develop in areas just outside dense urban populations.

13. Novel Materials for Low-Cost Sanitary Pad Production
Lawino Kagumba and Megan White of American Friends of ZanaAfrica in the U.S. will work with collaborators in Kenya to develop and test sanitary pads that utilize an agricultural by-product as an alternative absorbent material. If successful, low-income women and girls will have access to locally produced affordable feminine hygiene products.

14. Prototype Microflush- Biofil Toilet Facilities
Stephen Mecca of Ghana Sustainable Aid Project in the U.S., along with partners in Ghana, will develop and field test in Ghana a prototype toilet facility that incorporates an innovative aerobic digester to decompose waste along with a microflush valve that uses minimal amounts of grey water. The field tests will help assess and refine cultural, sanitation and financial aspects of these community facilities.

15. Reusable Self-Decontaminating Sanitary Napkin
Joe Schneider of LAAMScience in the U.S. will develop a reusable and self-decontaminating menstrual napkin that uses photodynamic dyes to inactivate microbial growth on the fabric. The napkin would prevent the need for expensive disposable pads and tampons while offering a hygienic alternative that self-disinfects in the absence of soap or clean water.

16. Safe Sludge
Kara Nelson of the University of California, Berkeley in the U.S. proposes to disinfect excreta in latrines by converting the ammonia naturally found in urine and feces into a powerful disinfectant by adding an alkalinizing agent to raise the pH level. By killing pathogens immediately and turning excreta into “safe sludge”.

17. Technology to Convert Excreta to Valuable Products
Ian Gates and Michael Kallos of the University of Calgary in Canada propose to combine two well-established technologies - anaerobic micro-digesters and micro combined heat/power thermoelectric generation units – into a single portable unit that can consume human excreta to generate electricity, heat, methane, fertilizer and water. Each device will be designed to serve a single extended family.

18. The Earth Auger Toilet: Innovation in Waterless Sanitation
Marcos Fioravanti and Chris Canaday of Fundación In Terris in Ecuador will develop a pedal-operated, low-cost, easy-to-use, odorless urine-diverting dry toilet, in which feces and urine disappear after each use, dry material is mixed in mechanically instead of polluting water, and it all becomes plant fertilizer.
GGC - Waterless Sanitation.jpg
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19. The Latrine Training Mat
Clair Null and Silantoi Kisoso with Innovations for Poverty Action in the U.S., along with Michael Kremer of Harvard University, are designing a children’s latrine training mat made from easy-to-clean plastic that fits over an existing latrine hole. The sturdy but easy-to-move platform has a child-sized hole that eliminates the fear and risk of falling into the latrine, promoting good sanitation practices and fostering a life-long habit of latrine use.

20. The Lotus Throne: A Self-Cleaning Solution to Sanitation
Kin-Ping Wong of Retina Pharma, Inc. in the U.S. proposes to test UV-resistant super-water-repellent silica as a coating for toilets, which could reduce the amount of water needed to clean the toilets after use and improve the surface sanitation of the toilets. The silica coating displays the same very high water repellency as the leaves of the lotus flower.

21. Turning Latrines Into Fly Traps
Steve Lindsay of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom seeks to demonstrate that flies are transmitters of diarrheal diseases due to their attraction to fecal matter and to food sources, and proposes to design traps that attract, capture and kill flies in latrines.

22. Universal Slum Sanitation with 100% Safe Reuse of Nutrients
Karsten Gjefle of Sustainable Sanitation Design in Norway will design and test a low cost system to rapidly turn human excreta into pathogen-free compost for use as fertilizer for farmers. Gjefle and his team hope to create a viable financial market that will remove untreated sewage from urban areas and also provide farmers with recycled, safe and natural soil improvements.

23. Urban Sanitation Solutions for High-Use, Flooded, and Difficult to Serve Areas
Andreas G. Koestler and Andrew Larsen of the Fontes Foundation in Norway will design and conduct a small field test in Haiti of a new toilet block system that can be erected as a kit in high-density, difficult to serve communities such as refugee camps. The system will feature urine diverting toilet pans as well as enlarged ventilation areas to help eliminate odors and desiccate feces, and will utilize used billboard fabric as waterproof walls, ceilings, and bladders to store excreta and contain pathogens that can foul water supplies.

24. Using Cocopeat for Treating Septic Tank Effluent
David Robbins of RTI International in the U.S. will test a septic tank biofilter made from cocopeat, which is a readily available byproduct of coconut processing, for its ability to decompose human waste and produce effluent that can be used for crop fertilization and irrigation.

25. Using Senecio Lyratipartitus Extract After Anal Ablution
Asafu Maradufu of the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton in Kenya proposes to produce a gel-based disinfectant from plant extracts of Senecio lyratipartitus which can be applied to hands. This disinfectant will reduce contamination associated with the practice of anal ablution among certain communities.

26. Using Waste To Move Waste
Mark Illian of Nature Healing Nature in the U.S. will work with villagers in rural Africa to design a pour-flush latrine utilizing readily available urine instead of scarce water for flushing, and drops of used cooking oil for odor control.

Just for your information, Gates was specifically looking for non-conventional technologies with low lifecycle costs and minimal water usage around the following themes:

a) Sanitation capture and containment technologies (improvements or alternatives to pit latrines).
b) Extraction and transportation innovations for hauling fecal sludge to transfer or disposal points.
c) Advancements in decentralized treatment technology for use at community, apartment block, town, and/or city scales.
d) Innovations in re-use of waste for agricultural, energy or industrial purposes at community and/or city level.
e) Other sanitation innovations (e.g. improved temporary toilets that do not use chemicals requiring special disposal, or low cost composting facilities requiring minimal user interaction with composted material).
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Re: The Future of Sanitation

Postby nem.isis » 10 May 2011 07:26

It is interesting to notice that there are no projects from the more traditional WASH groups: WEDC, Cranfield, SANDEC, IHE UNESCO, etc. (except one from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine). Just goes to show that "out of the box" innovative thinking does not necessarily come from the more so-called established WASH "experts." To be honest, this comes as no surprise, as there really hasn't been anything really novel sanitation-wise in the last while.
Now, whether the innovations will actually work... that's a whole different question.
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