World Toilet Summit

For the days of November 1 – 3, a portion of the Sanergy team drove down to Philadelphia to participate in the World Toilet Summit. For myself, there were two major highlights of the summit, Albert Wiggenhauser from Pikku Vihrea and Horatio Factura from the Hamburg University of Technology.

Albert Wiggenhauser talked about water conservation, dry composting toilets and how Finland has used them for decades. The population density of Finland is so spread out, that it is a better model than sewage infrastructure in many places. Albert noted that it has taken decades of social shaping for the people of Finland to be natural composters, and that a great part of his companies work is education of people. Knowledge is a significant element to the success of composting toilets. It helped his case that the entire presentation was based on technologies that Pikku Vihrea has in practice (selling toilets and dry composters).

Horatio Factura was interesting because of his research on Terra Preta soil. Terra Preta is a dark, fertile soil, originally found in the Amazon, that combines a number of elements, chief among them seems to be the addition of charcoal to biowaste and soil. Horatio’s work is mainly research based on analyzing and recreating Terra Preta soil. He had some concepts of how it might be incorporated into an ecosan toilet service, which were similar to some of the ones Sanergy came up with over the summer. As Sanergy is learning though, ideas are easy, and implementation is in the details. There is the possibility that both Sanergy and Horatio can benefit from each others work though.

As a group, we met a number of people around the ASME Plumbing Showroom floor (the larger conference that the World Toilet Summit was part of). Most directly relevant to the work Sanergy is doing, were two South Africans working with Envirosan. They manufacture and sell composting toilets through Africa, and were as excited with the work we’re doing as we were with what they’re doing.

There was another gentleman from South Africa, a Mr Trevor Mulaudza (which I might be spelling wrong because I didn’t talk to him myself). He talked about his work in bringing sanitation to schools in South Africa, by having children sell toilet paper to pay for the toilets upkeep. This had an interesting two fold approach, where he wanted toilet paper to become a powerful symbol of sanitation, and stance against open defecation. His pricing system might be out of the range for what could be implemented in Kenya, but is a starting point for consideration. I was most impressed by his do-it attitude. During his talk, he talked about the benefits of urine as a supplement to plants. To test and prove it, he purchased 3 tomato plants, gave water to one, let rain take care of the second, and peed on the third. Low and behold, the urine plant was the most thriving of the three.

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