VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa)
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TOPIC: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa)

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 04 Feb 2014 13:49 #7233

  • muench
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Dear all,

The recording of the presentation of Kai Udert from our webinar number 5 on "Resource recovery and reuse" on 21 January 2014 is now available.*

Kai had to record his presentation a second time because the recording from the live event was unfortunately too choppy. Thanks to Kai for giving it twice.


VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa

Kai Udert, EAWAG, Switzerland


You can watch Kai's presentation here:


Powerpoint slides from his presentation are available in the attached file below.

And here is a summary of the main points that we discussed at the webinar after his presentation:

(1)
Someone asked about social acceptance for this kind of system.

Kai explained that the UDDTs are already there in the area since many years and are support by the municipality (in total: 75,000 of them). EWS (eThekwini Water and Sanitation Unit) accompanied the installation of the UDDTs with facilitators; the VUNA project staff are also using their acceptance and educational materials.
Steve Mecca, who was in the audience, talked about his micro-flush toilets in Ghana and said that they would have a higher acceptance because they have a flush, even if it is only a small flush (see also here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/106-us...roject-usa-and-ghana) and was interested in the optimisation model for urine collection. In response to this, Kai mentioned the Eawag-RTTC toilet, which provides flushing and source separation as another possible option, however still at a research stage (forum.susana.org/forum/categories/106-us...tzerland-and-austria).

(2)
I asked Kai about the real difficulties and challenges with this project.

Kai said they would need to find a company who could produce the urine processing reactors (at a commercial scale). The second challenge is to optimise urine collection, because urine collection can cause high costs if it is not well done.

(3)
Someone asked about the energy requirements for the urine treatment reactor

Kai mentioned the values again (see slide 7 of his presentation below): about 45 Wh/L for nitrification and 80 Wh/L for distillation. Both electric. (when you are not dealing with these numbers on a daily basis, they are hard to grasp; can you please make a comparison for e.g. running such a reactor for 100 people's urine, I would need the energy equivalent per hour of having a household sized fridge running at the same time?)

+++++++

At the end of the second recording of Kai's presentation, Nelson Ekane asked some further questions (sorry, his voice is really low in the recording). I have written down the questions and answers here for those who cannot play Youtube videos easily (and while writing them down, I had further questions, these are marked in red):

(4)
What does VUNA mean?
Answer by Kai:
"VUNA is a word in the local language isi-Zulu und means "harvest" - we want to harvest the nutrients in urine."

(5)
What incentives are you providing for the urine collection to the people bringing their urine?

Answer by Kai:
"In the beginning there was a plan to use different incentives such as vouchers at a nearby shop. In the end we chose plain money as the incentive to bring the urine to the collection points. Liz Tilley from our team looked at different amounts of money per litre of urine. She is evaluating the results, and they should be available at the end of the project. (follow-up question: any interim figures available? Roughly? Are we talking about 1 Eur per L or 0.1 Eur per L? And who would ultimately pay for this? I guess it would be the municipality, EWS, and they would cover it from their water tariffs maybe?)"

(6)
How do you deal with the loss of ammonia when applying the urine as fertiliser (due to volatilisation)?

Answer by Kai:
"That's actually the reason why we use the nitrification process. With this proecess we can stabilise the ammonia, we have hardly any loss. The main loss would occur during the collection process from the toilets to the reactor (therefore the collection tanks must be well closed). We might loose 3% of the ammonia during the nitrification-distillation process. (comment: during the nitrification process, ammonia is converted to nitrate, but that is not regarded as a "loss" as the nitrogen is still available, just in a different forum)"

(7)
You mentioned your earlier work with urine and struvite in Nepal. Which lessons did you learn there and how did you apply them to the VUNA process?

Kai answered:
"Our lessons from Nepal: Just recovering phosphorus as struvite is not enough! We need to recover also all the nitrogen compounds. Therefore we switched to this nitrification-distillation process.
Also, transport of urine is really costly. We therefore focus now on these two aspects: treatment of urine to recover all of the nutrients and also urine collection.
We use a business model and computer simulations to optimise the urine collection. (could you explain a bit more what the variables are in your computer simulations? I am guessing transport distances and intermediate storage points? Also how does the business model help to reduce the costs of transport? Is it because the company doing the urine collection could sell the fertiliser product back to the farmers? Mind you, I was told the people in that area are not doing any farming (if they were, they wouldn't bring their urine to the collection points unless they get more money for it than for their produce). Therefore, who would be the buyers for the fertiliser, is it some commercial farms perhaps?)
Also, it is really important to make sure that the pathogens are removed and that the pharmaceutical residues content is low in the fertiliser product."

Please feel free to ask the VUNA team any follow-up questions or any other questions here on the forum! thanks, Kai, for being so patient with us. You probably get asked the same questions time and time again (might need an FAQ section on the VUNA website)

Regards,
Elisabeth


* More information about the webinar is available here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-ge...12&start=12#7107
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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Last Edit: 04 Feb 2014 14:06 by muench.

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 04 Feb 2014 14:22 #7235

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P.S.
I just took a look at the factsheets about VUNA on your website:
www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/...n/Brochures/index_EN
They are really very pretty and informative (although naturally they don't go into much detail).

What actually happens with all the nice photos you are collecting as part of the VUNA project? Will they be made available, e.g. in someone's Flickr collection? I think that would be great. I know that e.g. Linda Strange from Eawag-Sandec has a flickr account where she has nice photos from their projects (www.flickr.com/photos/52096232@N03/sets/), so maybe some of the VUNA photos could also find a home on flickr.

The SuSanA flickr database is also an option for this (www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/collections/). In fact, it is open for any SuSanA member who wants to make their sanitation photos available to the wider world. How to do this is described here:
susana.org/lang-en/videos-and-photos/ind...d=465&Itemid=455
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Last Edit: 04 Feb 2014 14:23 by muench.

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 05 Feb 2014 10:19 #7249

  • elizabethtilley
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Hi all,

I just wanted to quickly reply to the extra questions that were added onto Question 5.

We tested six different combinations of incentives: the lowest payment was 0.5 R/L (10 R per full 20 L container) and the highest was 1 R/L (20 R per full 20 L container).

Rand (R) is the currency in South Africa and currently is about 10 R / 1$, which would make the incentives about 0.05 $ - 0.1 $/L

It is important to note also that we did not hand out "cash" per se. Customers were given tokens, which were then exchanged at local participating shops for money. This was important not only for transparency, but also for the safety of the field staff.

During the pilot phase (about 8 months of experiments), the costs were covered by our research funds, but in the future, if the project was to be scaled up by EWS, the municipality would have to decide how to pay.

I hope this answered your questions, and hopefully I will have some publications available with all the details soon!

Best,

Elizabeth (Tilley)
Elizabeth Tilley
PhD Candidate, Development Economics
Centre for Development and Cooperation (NADEL)
ETH Zurich
Switzerland
Last Edit: 10 Feb 2014 11:59 by muench.

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 10 Feb 2014 12:07 #7330

  • muench
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Dear Elizabeth,

Thanks for this information, much appreciated.

So assuming that one adult produces around 500 L per urine per year, the municipality would have to pay between 25 to 50 Eur per person per year (based on the range that you mentioned of 1 Eur per 20 L canister to 2 Eur per 20 L canister).

Does this amount in any way resonate with the municipality (e.g. compared to other costs like free water, free primary education or similar)?

It seems a bit high to me, just for urine (Ok, the assumption would be that the faeces would not attract any costs as they would be dried in the UDDTs an locally buried, right?).

I guess ultimately it only makes sense if there is a market for the urine-derived fertiliser. (This was one of the questions I asked above on 4 Feb).

Kind regards,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 12 Feb 2014 10:53 #7350

  • elizabethtilley
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Dear Elisabeth,

Thanks so much for the feedback; I think it makes a good starting point for a bigger discussion about sanitation program evaluation and nutrient recovery in general.

I do not see the price we pay as being “just for the urine”, but rather, as a small way of “nudging” (to use an economics term) the target population towards a behavior that they were hesitant to engage in previously. UDDTs, as we all know, are not intuitive or loved when they are first introduced. Education and marketing have been used with varying degrees of success to increase use and incite behavior change in the past: incentives are another way that we are testing now.

While I think it would be excellent to recover the nutrients from the urine we collect in a useable form and use it to offset the cost, I don’t see that as the goal of incentivized urine collection.

When posters, pamphlets, or home visits by community health workers are paid for, the impact, unfortunately, is rarely measured, let alone weighed against the cost recovered. After all the materials, printing costs, salaries, transport, etc., the costs for an education campaign could easily reach 25€ per person but these types of programs are considered necessary, and are easy to fund, despite having few quantifiable outcomes.

Certainly a whole range of behavior changing methods are needed (printed and digital media, along with person-to-person education) but I firmly believe that we need to

a) rigorously evaluate the methods that we currently use (in terms of what works, how well and at what price) and;

b) investigate new methods; incentives are one such method.

I think that nutrient recovery is a “plus”- it is a way of offsetting some costs associated with providing sanitation, but should not be viewed as something that is only successful if it is capable of achieving full cost recovery.

I don’t think it’s fair for governments to pay for centralized wastewater treatment for rich people (certainly more than 25€ per person) but push the full responsibility of sanitation onto poor people who use UDDTs.

Transferring small amounts of money to poor people to increase use, while generating a small benefit from nutrient recovery (as opposed to most centralized treatment) seems like a small price to pay for well-maintained, well-used sanitation facilities and the health benefits that come with complete sanitation coverage.

As always, very happy for this forum and the interesting discussion topics it presents.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth Tilley
PhD Candidate, Development Economics
Centre for Development and Cooperation (NADEL)
ETH Zurich
Switzerland
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 14 Feb 2014 03:51 #7377

  • Marijn Zandee
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Dear Elizabeth,

Good to see you here on the forum!

I think you make an interesting point in your post, which I would like to highlight in a broader perspective.

Especially in older ecosan brochures there is often an emphasis on how well a UDDT, or other ecosan technology, can pay itself back. I think this is not always the correct perspective. In Nepal I see a similar discussion around using biogas technology for organic solid waste management, where people have unrealistic expectations regarding financial viability (often also to convince donors to give them money!).

I think it would be helpful to more widely acknowledge that waste management (in a wider sense) will almost always cost money and that only part of the cost can be offset by energy or nutrient recovery. And that thus there will almost always be a part of the cost that will have to be made "public", either through direct investment of people and companies or through taxes.

Regards

Marijn
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Last Edit: 14 Feb 2014 03:53 by Marijn Zandee.
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 14 Feb 2014 09:24 #7378

  • dorothee.spuhler
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Dear Marijn and Liz

I am also happy this discussion comes up here.

Sustainable sanitation has five goals including health, financial issues, environmental, technical issues, socio-cultural and institutional issues.
The functionality of these goals have also been nicely illustrated by the functional sanitation ladder (see also www.susana.org/images/documents/04-meeti...anitation-Ladder.pdf).
To reach each of this goal has a benefit to the direct beneficiaries of the system as well as for the wider society. This benefits are not easily measurable in monetary terms and expressed in financial viability of one or another technology or sanitation system choice. However, these benefits have all a positive impact on a national economy what justify the public investment in the implementation of a system.

Unfortunately, monetary values are often more easy to grasp, in particular for decision makers.
One big question I am personally interested in is how the sum of benefits of a given system in a give context can be communicated to policy and decision makers when not in monetary terms? Or should it be done in monetary terms? And then how far can we go in evaluate and measure of benefits based on the functionality of a system?

Liz, you mention some numbers. Have you done any cost-benefit comparison of different systems in Durban and if yes, how far did you go in cost-calculations regarding components of different systems (e.g. awareness raising campaigns, user training, etc.)?

Regards

Dorothee
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 14 Feb 2014 10:53 #7379

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Dear VUNA researchers,

I’d like first to congratulate your work and especially the energy you put in sharing it. I’m always so greatfull for this forum to exist and all the person in the shade at Susana doing a great work.

I’m currently working of a UDDT public toilet in france and would be very interesting in testing your reactor in a very busy center town place type train station / main square of the city / etc … which can be easily 200l/day.
I believe some townhall financing is reachable as well as some local chemist universities partnerships, the communication made out of this kind of installation would be powerful and therefore many green party local leaders would support such project. The idea would be to convert urine on site (extra liquid in the sewer network) before transportation, thus reducing the transport costs to nearby fields. We already planned to put some solar panel for ventilation-lights and the daily cleaning of the toilet would allow a great care and monitoring of the system.

My question is therefore :
• At the current development of the reactor, what is its range of price ?
• Do you plan to do any trial in an European context ?
• Are you looking for new partnerships or do you focus first on the proof of concept with VUNA before spreading it ?

Thanks again for sharing your discoveries and I wish you the best of luck in the revolutionary technology you develop !

Ben
Last Edit: 14 Feb 2014 11:00 by muench. Reason: corrected a typo
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 15 Feb 2014 13:59 #7387

  • kudert
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Hi Elizabeth et al.

I would like to give you some answers on the questions marked in red. Thank you, Liz, for replying to the question about the incentives.

Comparison of energy requirement for the urine reactor
The urine reactor installed in Forum Chriesbach requires about 125 Wh/L or 6.5 W/pers (assuming 1.25 L/pers).
This is close to the energy, which is required to treat wastewater in a modern centralized wastewater treatment plant with nutrient removal. Or to compare it with household devices: the most efficient fridges (EU norm A+++) have about the same continuous power demand (6.7 to 7.8 W), while a standard fridge (EU norm A) requires more than double (at least 17 W).
In our setup, the distiller is already energetically optimized, but we could reduce the energy by optimizing the aeration of the nitrification reactor or by removing part of the water with reverse osmosis.

Nitrogen loss during nitrification/distillation
During nitrification, hardly any nitrogen loss could be measured (less than 3%). The major problem for nitrogen loss from urine is actually urine storage and transport. Before treatment, a large fraction of the nitrogen in urine is volatile ammonia. Half of the nitrogen can easily be lost during storage and transport, if the containers are ventilated.

Optimizing urine collection with a computer model
The computer model I mentioned during the Webinar is described in some more detail in a brochure, which can be accessed here:
www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/...NAbrochure_modelling
At the moment, the computer model only includes parameters of the urine collection chain, such as the filling rate of the urine tanks in the household, frequency of collection, number of intermediate tanks, salary of fieldworkers, costs for urine transport with a truck etc. Many parameters have a wide range of values, e.g. the urine production per person can vary widely. To account for this variability, the model uses statistical distributions.
The model can be used to estimate the amount of urine and costs for different collection scenarios. For example, the model can tell you, whether it is more efficient to collect urine two or four times per week. If you collect it only two times, you might lose some urine, but you have lower costs for transport.

Business model and overall cost analysis
I also mentioned that we are working on a business model, which includes other elements of the "urine value chain", such as the potential value of the fertilizer and the costs for urine treatment reactors. The costs for many of these elements can only be estimated at the moment, e.g. by calculating the value of nutrients in different kinds of fertilizers or by estimating the costs of a industrially produced urine treatment reactor based on the costs of pilot reactors.

Best regards, Kai
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Process Engineering
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Recover nutrients: www.vuna.ch
Fresh off the press: Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 15 Feb 2014 14:12 #7389

  • kudert
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Dear Ben

I am curious to learn more about your project! Actually, we are looking for partners to optimize and construct the reactor.

In the VUNA project, we have two pilot plants, one in Durban and one at Eawag in Dübendorf/Switzerland. The reactor at Eawag has been producing urine fertilizer for more than 2 years now and we understand the process well enough to construct further reactors.

More details about the reactor at Eawag can be found here:
www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/...ure_completeRecovery
www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/...r_operation/index_EN

Best regards, Kai
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Process Engineering
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Recover nutrients: www.vuna.ch
Fresh off the press: Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 16 Feb 2014 05:39 #7390

  • ooaluko
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I read this posting with delight.
I and a collague have been working on sanitization of urine and use of farms with some farmers union in Osun and Oyo States in Nigeria and currently considering resources reuse in a waterless toilet system, currently being designed to collect urine seperately, sanitized and used while faecal matter shall be composted and fortified to ensure essential nutrients are available to crops.

If we can have additional information on the valorisation, it will help us further in thinking about the design and piloting further in my research team in Nigeria.
Femi Aluko

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 19 Feb 2014 14:59 #7424

  • kudert
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Dear Femi

One approach for direct use of urine is fertigation. By using trip irrigation pipes, you hardly loose any ammonia by volatilization and can supply the urine directly, where it is needed. We tested this approach in Nepal together with Marjin Zandee. You will find more information here: www.eawag.ch/forschung/sandec/gruppen/EW...m/stun/drip/index_EN

Kai
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Process Engineering
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Recover nutrients: www.vuna.ch
Fresh off the press: Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management
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