Providing acceptable forms of sanitation can be a major headache for local authorities. A high water table, drought and remoteness can mean conventional forms of water-borne flush lavatories are not always suitable.
Now a UCT civil engineering team has won the global sustainability prize at UNLEASH 2018 held in Singapore for their SaniHive prototype toilet hub that converts human waste into fertilisers and compost.
The team was led by Dr Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer in water quality in the department.
Randall says: “The toilet hub is not connected to a conventional sewage network, requires no electricity to operate and it can be easily scaled up by merely increasing the number of toilet hubs using the profits generated from the waste recycling. It contains a urine treatment process as well as a faeces collection system for eventual composting. It’s different to current toilets in this area because it separates the urine and faeces within the toilet while using no water.”
Phosphorous can be recovered from urine for fertiliser. The SaniHive took the laurels for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, as well as the Global Scalability Potential award, beating the 995 other contestants and 169 other solutions.
Randall says the SaniHivde can also create employment, as local people could transport the waste to mini-treatment plants where high-end products could be created.
UNLEASH 2018 is a global innovation lab that brings together 1 000 top young talents (aged between 20 and 35 years) from 100 countries to create real, scalable solutions to the sustainable development goals in areas including food, water, health, education, energy, urban sustainability and responsible supply chain.
Randall says informal settlements need sustainable sanitation that meets the needs of high population density, because portable toilets are often inaccessible due to space constraints. This may lead to many people sharing a few toilets, leading to poor sanitary conditions. But the SaniHive loo can also be used in wealthier suburbs, says Randall.