Toward an improved and scalable fecal sludge management model

Achieving our mission of making hygienic sanitation accessible and affordable for everyone, forever, requires more than just building and franchising Fresh Life Toilets. It also requires developing and implementing a system by which we can safely and reliably remove waste from the communities we serve and properly treat it to eliminate the possibility of future contamination.

Our logistics team is responsible for providing our Fresh Life Operators with this waste collection service, visiting each toilet on a regular basis to remove full cartridges and replace them with clean ones. The team then transports the waste to our waste transfer station, from where it is ultimately transported to the main processing facility for conversion into valuable by-products.

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Members of Sanergy’s waste collection team ready to head out on their collection route

Sanergy’s commitment to regular waste collection initially posed challenges for the organization: “Our Fresh Life Toilets are widely distributed throughout dense areas. Accessing and mapping these areas into collection routes has not been easy,” says Eric Machango, the Logistics Manager. The narrow, unpaved pathways in the communities we serve have also required us to develop innovative solutions for the collection process itself.

Last year, in coordination with Operations Research, Eric’s team implemented a logistics optimization program to improve the waste collection process. The project was inspired by an Operations Research survey and analysis, which found that the waste collection process incurred redundant transportation costs. At the time, the waste collected from the toilets was transported directly to the main processing plant. The truck transporting the waste had to make several trips a day between Mukuru and the processing site about 36 km away. “This method was particularly time consuming and expensive. We knew we had to come up with a better solution,” says Eric. The team adopted a “hub-and-spoke” model of waste collection where all waste would be aggregated at one point and transferred into larger cartridges before being transported to the main processing plant.

By the end of the year, the new system had increased the efficiency of the waste collection process. The Logistics team had also purchased larger trucks, which reduced the number of trips needed to take waste to the processing plant. “The new model we recently adopted helps ensure timely waste collection, consolidation, and ultimately easier transfer to the processing facility,” reiterates Eric.

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Waste collection teammates unload cartridges at Sanergy’s waste transfer station

This year, the team has begun the second phase of the logistics optimization process. “In this phase, our goal is to improve efficiency in our waste collection patterns,” says Mark O’Keefe of Sanergy’s Operations Research team. Through the use of GPS, they are working towards better mapping of optimal waste collection routes. The mapped routes will help identify central points to serve as waste transfer centers. Sanergy has also partnered with Sweet Sense, Inc., and GSMA for a pilot project to explore the cost savings from installing sensors that would enable “just in time” collection by our waste collection team.

To further improve the waste collection service we offer to Fresh Life Operators, the Logistics team has adopted the tenants of the Six Sigma Improvement Model in their work. “On a daily basis, we deal with a lot of processes; over time, we have found that implementation of Six Sigma has helped us to keep track of everything involved in waste collection,” says Eric.

By the end of this year, Eric and Mark hope to have established an overall improved, sustainable, and scalable waste collection system to offer our customers quality service and contribute to a cleaner environment.

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