Sanivation is turning ‘poop’ into Fuel

By Mercy Mumo / Kenya Climate Innovation Center

Accessibility to sanitation facilities in Kenya still remains a challenge for many. Sanivation is a social enterprise that aims at providing sanitation services to not only improve the environmental health of the urban and peri-urban population, but also serves as a source of fuel. The service involves free toilet installation in homes at an affordable monthly service fee of Ksh200 payable via M-pesa.

Human waste is collected and brought back to the processing facility. Active human waste is put in a red zone before being treated through solar heating to kill pathogens. The treated waste is then transformed into briquettes that are sold to local businesses and households. The production process from waste to fuel takes five days.

The Founders, Emily Woods and Andrew Foote, met as undergraduate students at Georgia Tech Research Institute. While working in Naivasha as a sanitation engineer, Woods heard the community members’ dissatisfaction with pit latrines and saw an opportunity to implement a new sanitation system.

In 2014, Foote joined her in Naivasha, where they were inspired to develop the Sanivation waste-to-fuel model after learning that community members wanted to cook using solar energy. With massive deforestation occurring throughout the country, 80 percent of urban families in Kenya rely on charcoal. The population in Naivasha County spends over 30 percent of their income on charcoal to cook. Using charcoal indoors pollutes the air and causes health complications. Woods and Foote realized that transforming waste into briquettes was a viable alternative in providing clean energy that burns longer and produces less smoke. Rose waste from the flower farms is carbonised to create an energy dense charcoal dust which is then mixed with the liquefied faeces to make the briquettes.

Sanivation has 15 regular customers who purchase the briquettes. The client base is growing at the rate of five to six new consumers in a month. The company sells approximately 150 bags of briquettes in a month. Since inception, there are 350 households using Sanivation toilets in Karagita, Naivasha County. The toilets are also being adopted by Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres.

Sanivation has a sales team that goes through intensive training on how to target customers. They have also opened a new plant in Kakuma Refugee Camp where they are using the same concept of providing the toilets and using the waste to make briquettes which are used as cooking fuel in the camp.

The company is working on building a bigger solar concentrator that will have the capacity to treat 15 tonnes of active human waste at once. They are looking into expanding their operations to other counties in order to provide sanitation solutions to more people at an affordable rate. Sanivation is working towards selling their products and services to municipalities, county governments and flower farms. The company would also like to forge partnerships and networks with large organisations or multinationals that advocate for sanitation to assist in scaling up of the company technology.