VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa)
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Nitrification reactor 13 Nov 2011 16:02 #2846

  • kudert
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Dear all

This is a short note that we successfully started a reactor for urine stabilization via nitrification at Eawag.

More information about our project on nutrient recovery from urine can be found at www.eawag.ch/vuna .

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
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2013 18:55 by dorothee.spuhler.
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VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 28 Jan 2013 15:22 #3285

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Dear all,

In my role as one of the moderators of this forum, I would like to introduce the work performed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) in Durban, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the Swiss Institutes of Technology Zurich and Lausanne (ETHZ and EPFL). This work is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF):

VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa
By recovering nutrients from urine in small decentralised reactors, VUNA wants to develop a dry sanitation system, which is affordable for the poor, produces a valuable fertilizer, promotes entrepreneurship and reduces pollution of water resources.
In this collaborative project, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) in Durban, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the Swiss Institutes of Technology Zurich and Lausanne (ETHZ and EPFL) work together to focus on three important aspects:
1. reactor technology
2. network management
3. socio-economic boundaries

Please visit the project website for more details: www.vuna.ch
Dorothee Spuhler
WG1 Co-lead
Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) based at at seecon, Switzerland
www.sswm.info / www.seecon.ch
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Last Edit: 28 Jan 2013 15:22 by dorothee.spuhler.
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa 30 Jan 2013 18:17 #3321

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I would like to complete the description in my previous post (which had been prepared by Eawag) with a few more interesting informations and ask some questions.

As mentioned in the short description above, partners are the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) Services based in Durban.
Together they are applying a “feedback loop approach” (I picked that up from an old presentation from the Fecal Sludge Management Conference in Durban 2012):
  • First, in depth research is done at Eawag (Switzerland);
  • Then applied research is conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal;
  • And finally the role out and application is done in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality.
  • Then, the experiences are “looped” back to the lab.

From the homepage, I could not find out what activities are carried out when and where (maybe I just didn't see it). From what I have heard through personal communication of project members, not all of the components are equally researched in all of the 3 locations.

However, it seems that there is quite a lot of work done in the field of "reactor technology and network management" covering following aspects:
  • Nitrification
  • Evaporation
  • Electrolysis
  • Hygiene
  • Reactor Operation
  • Urine Collection
  • Performance Modelling

Research looking at “socio-economic” boundaries is done for the “economic feasibility” and social acceptance.
The “economic feasibility” is focussing on:
Understanding how a urine market could operate in Durban
Developing a model which could be adapted for, and implemented in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, and ideally, laying a foundation for the rapid spread of nutrient-incentivised sanitation plans.

In terms of “social acceptance” the VUNA novel environmental technologies will be accompanied by studies, which investigate the socio-cultural perceptions and factors influencing users’ acceptance. In addition the project plant to investigate and monitor the use of urine diverting toilets and urine-derived fertiliser products as well as to develop appropriate educational activities and awareness material. But no results are available yet.

I have a few further questions, which I would like to ask to the project responsibles:

General:
  • When did the project start and when will it end?
  • You say you “want to develop a dry sanitation system”: does that cover only the three mentioned components or also additional aspects like toilet design etc. looked at?

Reactor technology:
  • In what form do you “harvest” or “valorise” the fertiliser from the urine and what would be the end-product to be marketed in Durban? Is it different for the different technologies (e.g. in terms of nutrient content)?
  • What of the reactor technology research aspects (i.e. nitrification, evaporation, electrolysis) is currently researched and where (at what stage)? Can you already say, which technology is the most promising or for the roll out and application in Durban/Sub-saharan Africa and why?
  • Can you share already some results in terms of health and ecotoxicology according the end-product?
  • What other hygiene aspects do you look at?
  • In an old presentation from Durban I also read about “Distillation” – have you done research in this field - and if yes – why did you stop it?

Urine collection and performance modelling:
  • What kind of collecting system have been researched and how? And which ones will (or have been?) be tested in application in Durban?


Thank you!

Best Dorothee

By the way: did you know that VUNA in isiZulu (language of project area) means harvest! www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/organization/index_EN
Dorothee Spuhler
WG1 Co-lead
Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) based at at seecon, Switzerland
www.sswm.info / www.seecon.ch
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Last Edit: 21 Feb 2013 17:16 by muench.
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa 05 Feb 2013 08:59 #3368

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Hi Dorothee,

Thanks for your interest in our project! To reply to your questions:

Duration of the VUNA project: October 2010 to September 2014
Components: All project components are described on the website www.vuna.ch. With regards to toilet design: the VUNA acceptance studies do address some design issues, although designing new toilet interfaces is not part of our project.

Reactor technology

The nutrient products vary depending on the treatment technology:
1. precipitation: the product (struvite) is a powder that contains mainly phosphorus (12.5 % of mass)
2. nitrification & evaporation: the product is a liquid solution, concentrating all nutrients contained in urine in about 3 % of the initial volume. Nitrogen is present as ammonium and nitrate.
3. electrolysis: the resulting products depend on process parameters, such as electrode material, voltage etc. electrolysis can be used at various stages of the processes.

The location and application of the various processes:
1. precipitation: is researched in Durban only. Struvite precipitation is a very robust process. However, it recovers mainly phosphorus and only a very low fraction of nitrogen (5 %). The drainage liquid of the process still contains high nitrogen and potassium loads.
2. nitrification & evaporation: are researched in Durban and Zurich in parallel. The process has been working well at pilot scale, though needs some refinement for full-scale application.
3. electrolysis: is at a very initial stage. Research is at lab scale on specific components of the process.

Health & Ecotoxicology:
The nitrification & evaporation product is hygienically safe, given that during the process it is heated. Experiments on the fate of micro-pollutants (e.g. pharmaceuticals residues) are currently carried out at the Eawag labs and first results will be available shortly.

Distillation: is a specific form of evaporation. Concerning our process, distillation is currently used in the nitrification & evaporation pilot plant in Zurich and will also be used in Durban soon. In parallel, we are also researching alternative methods (humidification) to evaporate the liquid contained in urine.

Urine collection

Some news on the tested collection systems are to be posted on our website soon. Stay tuned: www.vuna.ch
--
Eawag - Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
--
VUNA - Nutrient Harvesting - www.vuna.ch
Project Coordinator
--
Bastian Etter - Eawag - Process Engineering - Überlandstrasse 133 - 8600 Dübendorf - Switzerland
t: +41 58 765 50 48 - Skype: bastian.etter

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa 12 Feb 2013 13:17 #3455

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Dear Bastian

As this is my first post on the forum, I introduce myself: I recently finished my studies in Sustainable Development in Switzerland with focus on social aspects and water issues (water governance, organisational development, social-ecological systems). Now I’m doing an internship at seecon international GmbH in Switzerland, assisting in the SSWM Toolbox (www.sswm.info) and other sanitation related projects. That’s how I came into touch with SuSanA and why I’m getting more and more interested in technical and non-technical aspects of sanitation issues.

I really like your approach of combining large-scale nutrient recovery with a business model for economically poor people. I have some less technical questions:

1. I asked myself, why do you make large-scale nutrient recovery that complicated? Why didn’t you chose the easy option of direct application of (stored and dilluted) urine to the fields? Or in other words: what is the background of the VUNA project? And where do you see its biggest niche or application area?

2.What happens to the faeces?

3.Are there already any results from the research components “economic feasibility” and “social/ user acceptance”?

And by the way: are there any videos available?

Looking forward to your responses and thanks!
Stefy

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa 15 Feb 2013 09:06 #3499

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Dear Stefy,

Thanks for the interest in our project! Here some answers to your questions:

1. Of course, direct urine application is the simplest and most efficient way of urine fertilisation. However, there are several challenges to a large scale application, which we try to tackle in the VUNA project:
a) concentrating the nutrients in about 3 % of their initial urine volume and weight saves storage space and transportation costs.
b) processing the urine into a fertiliser product that does not smell bad improves user-friendliness.
c) processing the urine at higher temperatures kills pathogens and makes it safe to handle.
d) processing removes part of the organic pollutants and can be extended to remove all of them.

2. Faeces treatment is not part of the VUNA project. The eThekwini is running an interesting project to pelletise faecal sludge (www.parsep.co.za/pages/Malaysia-Poster1.pdf).

3. The economic and social acceptance studies are currently carried out in the field and the first results are being processed. We will publish any interesting intermediate and final results on our website www.vuna.ch. Stay tuned!

For videos, check out the "News" box on the left side of our website!

Best regards,
Bastian
--
Eawag - Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
--
VUNA - Nutrient Harvesting - www.vuna.ch
Project Coordinator
--
Bastian Etter - Eawag - Process Engineering - Überlandstrasse 133 - 8600 Dübendorf - Switzerland
t: +41 58 765 50 48 - Skype: bastian.etter

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa 27 Feb 2013 09:34 #3620

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Dear all,

I would like to point out the following news on the VUNA homepage:

Complete nutrient recovery
The paper „Udert, K.M., Wächter, M. (2012) [pdf] Complete nutrient recovery from source-separated urine by nitrification and distillation. Water Research 46(2), 453-464.“ is now available as pdf.

Documentation
In this register you find a lot of additional reading material. Now there are also the links to the following videos:
  • SRF1 - Einstein: Urin gegen Dünger Engpass (German)
  • Smart Studio featuring the VUNA nitrification reactor at Eawag (English)
  • SABC -50|50: Excellence in eThekwini (English) (about the infrastructure projects in eThekwini)

Agriculture
Results from struvite crop trials at University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa
Fact-sheet: Odindo, A., Bame, I., Buckley, C. (2013) [pdf] Struvite crop trials. Crop and Soil Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Results from a plant growth study at ETH Zurich
Poster: Nutrient (re)cycling from human urine [pdf]. Christophe Bonvin, MSc candidate, ETH Zürich, Institute of Agriculture Sciences, Group of Plant Nutrition,


The homepage is updated constantly with new findings. I'll keep you informed.

About me: I am studying Environmental Engineering at ETH Zurich. Since January I am working alongside my studies at Eawag on the VUNA project. I am mainly involved in the communication and the documentation of the project.

I appreciate your interest!

Best regards
Corine
Last Edit: 27 Feb 2013 09:35 by corine.
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VUNA project 28 Nov 2013 11:32 #6569

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Dear all,
Please see below a paper our team at UKZN has produced, as part of the VUNA project described above. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask here on the forum. I am sorry but the paper has a copyright with IWA Publishing. If you would like to have a copy, you can e-mail me (simply use the contact button on the left of this post) or email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Assessing perceptions and willingness to use urine in agriculture: a case study from rural areas of eThekwini municipality, South Africa.
Authors: A. E. Okem, S. Xulu, E. Tilley, C. Buckley and E. Roma

In Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development Vol 3 No 4 pp 582–591 © IWA Publishing 2013
doi:10.2166/washdev.2013.036

www.iwaponline.com/washdev/up/washdev2013036.htm

ABSTRACT

In recent years there has been a growing body of knowledge exploring the benefits of using sanitation-derived nutrients. Such studies aim to uncover strategies that facilitate nutrient recovery from urine and faecal sludge for agricultural use. This paper presents the findings of a study which assessed the willingness to handle and use urine in agriculture among people living in rural areas of eThekwini Municipality, South Africa. Results show that less than 5% of participants are using urine as a fertiliser. This could be attributed to limited awareness of the value of urine in agriculture since only 9.7% are aware that urine contains essential nutrients that can support plant growth. Furthermore, health concerns, smell and the opinions of others are identified as barriers to the handling of urine. The study therefore recommends that participatory field trials and promotional activities are conducted to improve users’ awareness and acceptance. The outcome of this research is of importance to help inform low- and middle-income countries’ governments as they address urban and environmental challenges such as access to adequate sanitation, poverty and food security.



CONCLUSIONS
Our research provided an overview of current perceptions of UDDT users in eThekwini Municipality on the re-use of urine for agricultural purposes, highlighting some of the hurdles encountered. Managing the re-use of urine as a resource requires a radical shift in perceptions and practices, which involves all stakeholders in the value chain, from local authorities to end users and consumers. Yet this study provides only an overview of existing perceptions on the re-use of urine. Further research is recommended to assess the impact of suggested interventions (i.e. participatory field
demonstrations, training and promotion activities) to increase users’ awareness of the value of urine-based fertiliser and acceptance of the practice.
Last Edit: 29 Nov 2013 11:02 by eliro.

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 06 Dec 2013 11:11 #6627

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Dear all,

Finally, our new brochures are online!

Each brochure is a compact and easy to understand summary of one research topic within the VUNA project.

The VUNA brochure collection:

Urine collection networks:
  • Urine collection - Setting up a system
  • Performance model - Optimising collection
  • Optimise collection - Minimising costs

Urine treatment processes:
  • Nitrification - Stabilising urine
  • Distillation - Concentrating urine
  • Electrolysis - Compact reactor
  • Complete recovery - All nutrient solution
  • Struvite production - Phosphorus fertiliser

Risks of urine use:
  • Pathogens - Inactivation
  • Pharmaceuticals - Degradation

Agricultural use
  • Urine fertiliser - Greenhouse trials

Socio-economic aspects:
  • Incentives - Encouraging collection
  • Hygiene education - Improving health
  • Social acceptance - Feedback from users

Check out the brochures!

Best regards,
Corine
www.vuna.ch
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 13 Dec 2013 18:22 #6703

  • KimAndersson
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Dear Corine and VUNA research team,
It is excellent to see all your factsheets sharing your project progress. Your work is really showing great potential to contribute to rethinking the sanitation development in the future.

Still, I have some questions that I hope you can answer:
Urine processing technologies: From what I can see in your factsheets most technologies that you apply seems fairly high tech. What are the main challenges that you encountered in search for affordable and technically accessible methods? In the case of nitrification and distillation, are you planning to go beyond the laboratory level and set up a pilot plant for testing in a real setting? For the struvite production that you now also tested in field, what are your strategies for management of the remaining liquid sub-product (considering that 80% of the volume remain, and also the main content of nitrogen and other nutrients).

Urine collection system: From the lessons in your project, what would you say are key components that can create a sustainable collection system for urine (including economic, social, and environmental dimensions)?

Thanks and keep up the nice work!!

All the best,
Kim
Kim Andersson
Stockholm Environment Institute
Postbox 24218,104 51 Stockholm, Sweden
kim.andersson@sei-international.org

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 16 Dec 2013 11:33 #6724

  • kudert
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Dear Kim

We aim to produce a valuable product (i.e. a fertilizer), prevent environmental pollution, ensure high hygienic standards and minimize the direct contact of the toilet users with urine. We think that these four goals can be achieved in the best way by bringing the urine to a collection point, where it can be treated with more complex technologies. I am not aware of any onsite technology, which can achieve the same results. However, with so many researchers working in this field right now, it is well possible that we will have highly efficient and easy-to-maintain urine treatment technologies for on-site reactors soon.

Two of our technologies, nitification/distillation and struvite precipitation, were first tested in the laboratory and later in pilot-scale reactors. Our main focus is on nitrification/distillation. One pilot plant has been running at Eawag's office building for than two years, another one is currently being installed at a horticultural center in Durban. For the next year, we are planning a third pilot plant.

As you pointed out, the effluent of the struvite precipitation process contains most of the nutrients, by the way by mass and by financial value (see the following paper for more details: Etter, B., Tilley, E., Khadka, R. and Udert, K.M. (2011) Low-cost struvite production using source-separated urine in Nepal. Water Research 45(2), 852-862.) Stuvite production has received a lot of attention, because it is a comparatively simple process and because it produces a phosphorus fertilizer. There is definitely a market for struvite, but in order to achieve all four goals that I mentioned above, struvite precipitation has to be combined with another process. One possibility is to treat the struvite effluent in the nitrification/distillation process. By this, we can produce two fertilizers, first a phosphorus fertilizer (struvite) and second an ammonium/potassium fertilizer. Furthermore, we produce distilled water.

A urine collection system has to be sustainable in various ways:
- as much urine as possible has to be collected to prevent environmental pollution and to recover most of the nutrients as fertilizer
- the collection system has to be financially viable
- urine collection must not be a burden for the local community
- urine pick-up has to be reliable
- urine collection should be a source of income for the local community

In VUNA, we investigate different approaches. In one approach, financial incentives are used to engage the local community in urine collection. In another approach, urine collection is organized and provided by the water and sanitation utility alone (institutionalized collection). Both approaches have their advantages and drawbacks. In the end of the project, we will be able to give you a more detailed answer about the key components.

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 Jan 2014 09:57 #7010

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Dear Susana forum users, if you interested in more news about the VUNA project, please join us for the webinar "Innovation in resource recovery and reuse" next week:

Tuesday 21 January 2014, 16:30 - 17:15
(CET - Central European Time; use this time converter if you are unsure of the time difference to your location: www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html)

Agenda:

16:30 Recording starts

(1)
VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa
By Kai Udert, EAWAG, Switzerland
see discussion above and www.vuna.ch

(2)
Structuring of the fecal sludge market for the benefit of poor households in Dakar, Senegal
By Mbaye Mbeguere, Senegal National Sanitation Utility, ONAS, Senegal
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-enabling-environment/5057-structuring-of-the-fecal-sludge-market-for-the-benefit-of-poor-households-in-dakar-senegal-onas#6845

(3)
Modeling the next generation of sanitation systems
By Luiza Campos, University College London, UK
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-enabling-environment-and-others/4741-modelling-the-next-generation-of-sanitation-systems-university-college-london-uk

17:15 End of webinar

For more information on how to participate, see in this posting here on the forum:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-general-information-and-announcements/5624-5th-webinar-on-21-january-2014-sanitation-webinars-with-bmgf-grantees-organised-by-stockholm-environment-institute?limit=12&start=12#6746

Kind 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) 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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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

  • muench
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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
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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
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Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 14 Feb 2014 03:51 #7377

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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

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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

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 20 Feb 2014 10:30 #7431

  • elizabethtilley
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Hi Dorothee

In the interest of keeping this thread dedicated to the main VUNA findings, I started a new topic called "Monitoring and Evaluation" and replied to you over there: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/142-up...oring-and-evaluation

Let's keep the conversation going!

Liz
Elizabeth Tilley
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Centre for Development and Cooperation (NADEL)
ETH Zurich
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Last Edit: 20 Feb 2014 17:31 by muench.

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 27 Apr 2014 16:36 #8346

  • lvolat
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Hello,

I have a few questions about the cost as I couldn't locate them in the documentation:

How much does the reactor cost?

The one in Switzerland, and the one in Durban?

How about the distiller?
cewas Middle East

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 28 Apr 2014 05:48 #8350

  • Carol McCreary
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Hi, Ben,

Good questions. It seems to me so important right now that we get UDDTs field tested in industrialized countries. (Better to do field trials at home before doing them elsewhere.) Public toilets are not the easiest way to launch UDDTs but the educational effect could be terrific. We're looking for successful models to advocate for with local leaders. I'm interested in what part of France you're working in.

Carol

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 11 May 2014 02:36 #8565

  • scottchen
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Kai,
I would be very pleased if you could give us more information about about the urine vale chain since i am using the urine from 20,000 students to grow apples and cherries.

Please refer the details to
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/91-pro...-successful-business )
best regards
Scott
Chen Xiang Yang, an apple dealer,is growing apples and cherries with the human waste collected from 31 school UDDTs donated by SOHO China Foundation, based in Tianshui City, Gansu Province , China. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel:0086 151 9380 3972

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 12 May 2014 10:10 #8581

  • kudert
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Dear Lilian, dear Scott

Please find the answers to your questions below:

1. Costs of the reactor
We did a rough calculation based on the expenditures for the pilot plants in Dübendorf and Durban. Based on this calculation, a pilot plant costs about 200 EUR per person. Approximately half of this costs are for the distiller and the other half for the nitrification reactor, the process control and all other components. For example a pilot plant, which can serve 400 people would cost approximately 80,000.- EUR. However, this value should be taken with a grain of salt, because a pilot plant is substantially more expensive than an industrially produced standard reactor. We expect that the price will be significantly lower in the future.

2. Urine value chain
A final assessment of the urine value chain in the VUNA project cannot be given yet, because the research is not completed. However, you can find our current findings on our homepage: www.vuna.ch.
In the STUN project (www.eawag.ch/stun) we also investigated the direct use of urine as fertiliser. This can be a valuable option in rural areas, especially if drip fertigation systems are used.

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
Last Edit: 12 May 2014 10:14 by kudert.

Re: VUNA - Valorisation of Urine Nutrients in Africa (EAWAG, Switzerland, and South Africa) 13 May 2014 05:37 #8592

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Dear Kai:
Thank your very much for your reply. The pilot project is acceptable. I will look at the TUN project as mentioned.
Thanks
Scott
Chen Xiang Yang, an apple dealer,is growing apples and cherries with the human waste collected from 31 school UDDTs donated by SOHO China Foundation, based in Tianshui City, Gansu Province , China. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel:0086 151 9380 3972
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