Researchers from Columbia University’s Engineering School, working in Ghana with Waste Enterprisers Ltd., the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly decided to commemorate this year’s World Toilet Day (19th of November) by launching a pilot facility that converts fecal sludge into biodiesel fuel.
Anthony Mensah, Waste Management Director for the city of Kumasi is convinced this can become a revolutionary model in sustainable sanitation.
The project is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Kartik Chandran, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University’s school of engineering and applied science and Ashley Murray, Founder and CEO of Waste Enterprisers Ltd, Ghana.
The aim of this initiative is to create a new-style urban sanitation facility. It is planned to have a capacity to receive and treat around 10 000 liters of sludge per day, which equals concentrated matter from 5000 people. The researchers’ goal is to develop a facility that will generate revenue by transforming sanitation into a profitable venture.
During the first 12 months of the project, the team is planning to test the new bioprocess technology, with which organic compounds are converted to biodiesel and methane.
Researchers from KNUST and a team of process engineers are also involved, and together with Chandran and Murray, they are trying to improve the biodiesel yield from fecal sludge. They are developing and testing a business model that will aid explaining the process and creating biodiesel from human waste.
Chandran and Murry are convinced that this project is very important for global sustainable sanitation, and they are hoping it could be replicated and put into use in many areas around the world.