Sanivation Turns Waste Into Fuel in Kenya

Startup company in Africa is helping to establish healthier sanitation practices and lower the cost of fuel.

Emily Woods wants to make sure that everyone has access to a clean and safe toilet. She says that more than a billion people in the world do not have a toilet, and globally 1,000 children die every day from fecal related infections. Along with her team from Sanivation Woods is turning fecal matter into fuel, and working to make the world healthier and more efficient.

Sanivation is currently operating in Kenya, placing mobile toilets at households and sending a collection agent to pick up the buckets of waste twice a week. The waste is then taken to the Sanivation center, where a solar concentrator heats the biosolids over 70 degrees Celsius to remove pathogens in the waste. The waste is then further dehydrated in an agglomerator, and turned into charcoal briquettes that are used as fuel for burning.

The treatment facility opened in September 2015 at Sanctuary Farm in Naivasha, Kenya. In October 2016 a revamped and expanded treatment system was introduced that boosted capacity by 300%. The overall goal is service for a million homes in Kenya by 2020.

Sanivation started as an Engineers Without Borders trip in 2011, where the team members worked with the Red Cross in Chile after the 2010 earthquake. Woods was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the Energy sector for 2016, and the Sanivation project has also been featured in Fast Company and at ASME’s ISHOW. This is a great project that helps to illustrate my idea that engineering should be focused on making the world a better place, and it also takes existing technology and easily installs it into new applications. The health problems associated with sanitation and burning kerosene for fuel are huge and not being fixed and barely being examined on a global scale. Black market deforestation for charcoal production is also becoming an issue. Small projects with big ambitions like Sanivation will be required more and more in the coming decades.