The new economy of excrement. Nature, September 13, 2017
Entrepreneurs are finding profits turning human waste into fertiliser, fuel and even food.
On the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda, septic trucks full of human excrement bump and slosh their way up orange dirt roads to their final destination: the Nduba landfill. Until recently, the trucks would spill their contents into giant open pits.
Will Swanson for Nature. Semi-dried sludge on its way to becoming fuel at the Pivot plant in Rwanda.
But since 2015, workers in green jumpsuits have greeted them outside a row of sheds and plastic-roofed greenhouses, ready to process the faecal sludge into a dry, powdery fuel.
The facility is called Pivot, and its founder is Ashley Muspratt, a sanitation engineer who lived in Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda for more than seven years before moving back to the United States last year. Muspratt insists that Pivot is not a treatment plant.
It’s a business. Its product powers local industries such as cement and brick plants. “I describe us as dual sanitation and renewable-fuel company,” Muspratt says. “Our model really is to build factories.”
Muspratt is part of a growing band of entrepreneurs trying to address one of the biggest challenges in public health — poor sanitation — and to turn a profit doing it. According to a report published by the World Health Organization and United Nations children’s charity Unicef in July, 2.8 billion people — 38% of the world’s population — have no access to sewers and deposit their waste in tanks and pit latrines (see ‘Sanitation across nations’).
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Entrepreneur who makes building materials from waste. Standard Digital, January 27, 2017.
Dr Aghan Oscar displays one of the tiles made at his factory using waste plastics.
With the high prices of steel, vandalism of metals and rotting of timber, experts in the built environment are coming up with alternative building technologies that are cheap, durable and free from vandalism.
One such expert is Dr Aghan Oscar, who is recycling waste plastic into building materials and selling them to developers who use them to provide affordable housing.
Dr Oscar produces the materials at his industry in Kariobangi South, Nairobi. Some of the products include lumber planks, paving slabs, manhole covers, ridge tiles, and fencing posts.
The company – Continental Renewable Energy Co Ltd (Corec) – was born in 2013. Dr Oscar has contracted Kariobangi youth to collect, clean, crush and sell scraps to the factory.
The fencing posts come in various sizes that sell for between Sh800 and Sh1,000 per post. He says they make about 100 posts per day and sell them to the Kenya National Highways Authority and individuals.
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Water For People – Strengthening public sector enabling environments to support sanitation enterprises, 2014.
Billions of people lack access to a decent toilet. Attempts to address this gap through direct-subsidy models have often been proven unsustainable as, given resource limitations, they are unable to provide desirable toilets that families are likely to use and maintain over time. Based on private sector success in low-income markets, business-based approaches may be able to help bridge this gap through sustainable market-based mechanisms and associated incentives to meet the needs and desires of lower-income households.
Water For People is piloting sanitation business approaches and seeks to discover under what conditions these approaches are successful. Public sector influence is one condition that has the potential to facilitate or hinder private sector sanitation endeavors. This study aims to understand: (1) how the public sector enabling environment can facilitate or hinder low-cost sanitation enterprises; and (2) how NGOs can effectively engage the public sector to support sanitation businesses. Data were collected from Water For People staff and partners in nine countries and summary case studies were coded to discover prevailing themes.
This 4-min video overview of the sanitation business model in Indonesia illustrates a one-stop shop sanitation business model targeted at entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.
The video animation follows Mr. Budi, a sanitation entrepreneur who produces healthy toilet facilities at an affordable price. Mr. Budi’s experience highlights steps needed to become a successful sanitation entrepreneur, such as close cooperation with various stakeholders, as well as coordination from local health offices.
The video describes the sanitation business process in stages, from drawing a social map and identifying customers to receiving orders, creating a work plan and settling payments. As a sanitation entrepreneur, Mr. Budi is creating more jobs, supporting the community, and helping the government program improve access to sanitation.
Issue 163 | Sept 26, 2014 | Focus on Sanitation as a Business
This issue highlights some recent reports, conference proceedings, catalogs, and blog posts on sanitation entrepreneurs, sanitation markets, and other sanitation as a business issues. Included are summaries of a conference in Uganda; a Hystra report on household mobile toilets; catalogs of sanitation business opportunities; and blog posts from Sanivation, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor Enterprises, and others.
Designing the Next Generation of Sanitation Businesses: A Report by Hystra for the Toilet Board Coalition, 2014. J Graf, Hystra. (Link)
This report discusses two models that combine an aspirational value proposition for base of the pyramid (BoP) families with a strong potential for financial sustainability. In rural areas, the authors analyzed projects that activate local rural sanitation markets. In urban areas, they analyzed initiatives servicing mobile home toilets. Based on an in-depth analysis of both the best practices and greatest challenges from a pool of 12 representative projects, the report suggests strategies to overcome challenges to sustainability and scale.
Sanitation Business Catalogue: Let’s Rapidly Scale Sanitation Services to the Poor!2014. APPSANI. (Link)
This catalog contains 27 business propositions of sanitation sector entrepreneurs from all over the world. Together, they offer a variety of services, and all of them are looking to consolidate or expand their business and bring sanitation services to scale for customers at the BoP. This catalog was compiled for the Sanitation Business Matchmaking event at the first BoP World Convention & Expo in Singapore, August 2014.
Ready for Funding: Innovative Sanitation Businesses, 2014. Aqua for All. (Link)
This document was developed to give insights into promising prospects in the sanitation sector in small towns and peri-urban areas in upcoming economies. The sanitation sector offers long term, slow, and stable return on investments. The challenge of the sanitation industry is to access to the right blend of financial products.
Sanitation as a Business: Unclogging the Blockages, 2014. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Link)
This report summarizes a two-day conference in Uganda. One of the results was recognition among participants of the importance of business- and market-based approaches as keys to address some of the main barriers for scaling sustainable sanitation solutions. While there is still a long way to go toward universal usage of these approaches, participants were able to get a much richer understanding of the principles and key tenets of how sanitation as a business programming works; many participants intended to go back to their respective environments and apply the lessons they had learned.
Designing the next generation of sanitation businesses: a report by HYSTRA for the Toilet Board Coalition, 2014.
Fortunately, a number of market-based models have emerged in both rural and urban areas to address the sanitation crisis. They all serve the Base of the Pyramid in a sustainable manner by offering improved solutions, at a price that the poor are willing and able to pay. In this Report, we analyze two models that combine an aspirational value proposition for low-income families and a strong potential for financial sustainability: projects that facilitate the creation of a local, sanitation market in rural areas and enterprises servicing home mobile toilets in urban areas.
Based on an in-depth analysis of 12 projects representative of these two models, the Report suggests strategies to overcome challenges to sustainability and scale. Finally, the Report explores how these models would benefit from corporate and industrial expertise and resources, opening up opportunities for large corporations to contribute to solving the sanitation crisis.