A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

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  • AParker
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear Hajo,

We chose to limit our study only to low income settings, but even then doing a very quick calculation, if the population of Hobart is 220,00 ( ref ) and the annual income is AUS$110,000 then this works out only as AUS$0.50 pppy, in line with our review findings.

Our search method should have found any studies in India so please do point us to any papers that we have missed.

Dear Heiner,

Thanks for this call to full cost accounting!

Alison
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear Adrian & Alison,

I agree that you have more information and a better understanding of the economics of Circular Economic sanitation (yes, Australia is not a developing country and CE sanitation may not be subsidized in India), after all, you are a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the field. Thus, I will still learn from you.

But, I want to question whether 'we' members on the SuSanA should not have a common zeal of supporting sustainable sanitation as also very much emphasized by Heiner in his last post. While I feel that the paper does the opposite.
The paper states that

Resource recovery has a limited role in the financial viability of providing Circular Economy sanitation in low-income countries.

while at the same time the paper reports that

Overall, this research identified a lack of systematic data collection for sanitation costs in general and for the potential of resource recovery.

Thus, the research identified a lack of systematic data for the potential of resource recovery but still finds that resource recovery has a limited role in the financial viability of CE sanitation.

I would have preferred that the finding of lack of data could have lead to suggestions how such data could become available and further which shortcomings in current CE sanitation activities have been observed during the research and how possibly they could be overcome. Thus, a more positive and constructive approach than above bold statement (which in my view is not even well supported).

Sorry for me being so defiant, but I feel sustainable sanitation must succeed for the benefit of the people and the environment ...
ciao
Hajo
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  • AParker
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear Hajo,

To be clear, what we are saying is that there current data does not support CE sanitation for purely financial reasons, but we would like more data on the financial benefits to people's health and the environment as you suggest.

We have another paper where we study the barriers and enablers to CE sanitation in five cases in India which maybe you will find more positive and constructive.

Alison
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  • Chaiwe
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear All,

I have come across and decided to share some articles I found online with the aim of adding additional value to the discussion. Hope this helps provoke additional thought on the subject. 

Scientists from the United Nations University and the U.N. Institute for Water, Environment, and Health through their proposal have offered great environmental, social, and health benefits of FS reuse; after exploring the health, environmental and economic benefits especially among the smaller communities in Uganda, they felt it is a practical solution for sustainable development. The economic benefit of such projects would help to finance the construction of sanitation facilities for the one billion people who defecate in the open for lack of access to toilets, and the 2.4 billion people who only have the bare minimum.  In a study that was released ahead of World Toilet Day on Nov. 19, the total amount of bio-gas produced from the entire population of the world could amount to $9.5 billion.  https://www.efe.com/efe/english/technology/scientists-propose-extracting-energy-and-economic-worth-of-human-excreta/50000267-2762396 

At a global scale, such processes have so much potential, according to the United Nations, if all of the world’s human waste were to be collected and used for biogas generation, the potential value could be as high as $9.5bn or enough to supply the electricity for 138 million households around all of Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia combined.  https://www.bbc.com/news/business-37981485#:~:text=If%20all%20of%20the%20world's,the%20United%20Nations%20has%20calculated.

In Kenya on the other hand, the Stara biocentre in Kibera is run by women who also manage a school for orphans. Their hot showers are powered by biogas, and the first floor is let out as a legal advice center. The orphanage earns 45,000 Kenyan shillings a month from the biocentre, which they use to fund their work with the children.  https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/oct/15/poo-power-renewable-energy-kenya-slums-biogas

Unlike treating our waste as a major liability, with proper control in place waste can be used in several circumstances to build innovative and sustained financing for development at the same time safeguarding health and making our environment better in the process.  https://unu.edu/media-relations/releases/vast-energy-value-in-human-waste.html

I hope that these articles provide some additional helpful examples.

Regards,
Chaiwe
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  • Heiner
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Thank you very much for your reminder, Chaiwe!

As a farmer I can add if biogasification is done in a proper way there are almost no nutrient losses!
But you need responsible persons to look after (leaks, wrong materials thrown in like plastic, homogenization a.s.o.) and you need the infrastructure for the proper sludge removal to the fields. And then  the sludge has to be worked into the ground very quickly. If you just dump it  lots of Nitrogene is lost not to mention the hazard for the rivers or groundwater.

What I don't know is what percentage of pathogenes survive. I guess it depends on the bacteria working in the container (mesophilic or thermophilic).

Have a nice day,

Heiner
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  • AParker
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear Chaiwe,

Thanks for sharing these resources.   As far as I can see three of them share results form the same study, that if all human waste was converted to biogas this would generate revenues of $9.5 billion.   Whilst a seemingly impressive figure, when divided by the global popualtion of 7.8 billion gives just $1.20 per person per year, a meagre conbtribution to the cost of providing sanitation.

On the Umande biocentre case, again 45,000 KSh is a large sum and preumsably very useful funds.   But this is derived from user fees, not from sales of biogas.

I'll reiterate our argument.   There are many good reasosn for realising the circular economy for sanitation, but revenues from selling circular economy products should not be at the forefront of our case.

Alison
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  • Heiner
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear all,

my final remark in this threat, just to show the theoretical potential:
One person produces 500 l Unrine per anno. Taking 0,4% N/l means 2 kg of N/anno
1kg of wheat contains 20 grams of N.
If there is an efficiency of 50% in the whole recovery process (calculation from animal husbandry) you can produce 50 kg of wheat.
Now take the local price for wheat or rice or millet (similar) and you see the ecological potential of economic benefit from the production side. Not mentioned the value of reduced pollution....

A bit strange: in Germany is known the figure of 450000 t of N ending up at the door of  sewage plants (before eliminated...). This would double the amount.

Cheers,
Heiner
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Hi,

I'd like to thank everyone who has posted in this thread for this discussion, particularly the authors of the paper for fielding the questions from SuSanA members. Alison, I am really grateful to the way you use this forum. You are one of the few academics who regularly posts about your research projects here on the forum and who is willing to take the time to engage in discussions. This is great and I hope that more academics will follow your lead and that you also get something out of it! I also hope that you haven't been discouraged by some of the critical remarks that were posted here. This is all in the spirit of learning together and progressing the future of sustainable sanitation. So thank you!

I'll put some further comments into a separate post just after this one, in case we want to split it off into a separate thread.

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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

(It might be better to split this off into a separate thread if we want to discuss it further?)

Heiner: those theoretical figures for the value of the N and P content in human excreta are well known for nearly 20 years now (the "ecosan scene" has been publishing and pushing them for as long as I can remember, at least since 2003; see also  Wikipedia article about ecosan ). However, the devil is in the detail. I think the bottom line is that the artificially produced fertilisers are still too cheap to make the human excreta derived fertilisers competitive. One day in the future, when phosphate ore becomes more scarce, the industrial fertilisers will become more expensive and then finally the human excreta derived fertilisers will become financially viable!?

Until then, there are too many disadvantages with the human excreta derived (HED) fertilisers compared to the industrially produced ones, such as:
  1. Too diluted (in the case of urine);
  2. Too many pathogens (in the case of faeces and faecal sludge), requiring the need for extra safety precautions or extra treatment;
  3. It's produced all year round at equal quantities whereas a lot of crops require bursts of fertilisation at certain times; therefore the fertiliser would have to be stored until it's needed;
  4. Transport issues from the place where the HED fertiliser is produced the most (densely populated urban areas) to where it is needed (rural areas) - yes, there can be some urban agriculture but I doubt that all of our needs could be met with urban agriculture; we'll still need the rural areas, too.
  5. Social stigma issues, although they can probably be overcome without too much drama if we really wanted to - compared with the use of animal manure.
  6. Any others that I forgot?
Don't get me wrong: I love the whole concept of reuse of human excreta and I do hope we'll find ways to make it work and to even pay for itself (which would be awesome). I am just describing the current realities to explain why it so far hasn't take off yet. Similarly to what Alison said I would also say: There are many good reasons for realising the circular economy for sanitation, but revenues from selling circular economy products are currently not the number 1 selling point to make this work. Maybe one day in the future. Meanwhile, let's focus on the other selling points. 

There are some analogies to the recycling of other things: for example in Germany the households collect their paper and cardboard separately from the other rubbish and put it in paper bins which are then collected from the curbside. The residents have to pay the council or service provider for this service. That's even though there is value in the waste paper. The company who ultimately collects and processes the paper does make a profit and can sell the recycled paper. So theoretically the producer of the paper could say "I am not giving up this paper for free, pay me for it!". But then the whole concept wouldn't work because the company who is recycling the paper has operating costs with collecting the paper and processing it. Their business model only works because the residents pay that fee for collection.

So the same would be the case for urine and faeces. Even though there is a value in the material, we have to pay a service provider for collecting the stuff from our houses - whether it's by sewers or by trucks in the case of faecal sludge or container based sanitation. Together with that service fee, the company who does the collection and processing is then able to make a profit. Selling the excreta derived fertiliser will be another revenue stream for the company but a small one. 

This reminds me of the work that SOIL is doing in Haiti with container based sanitation and selling compost (see for example this thread ). They published a report in 2011 called:

SOIL (2011). Can We Sell EcoSan Compost in Haiti? A Market Analysis Report. Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods, Haiti, supported by Oxfam Great Britain
https://www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resources-and-publications/library/details/1173  

In the summary it says this which probably holds true for many similar projects:

With compost sales alone, EcoSan projects are unlikely to break even at their current scale in Haiti because the cost to produce 100 pounds of EcoSan-genated compost exceeds the current market rate for compost in Haiti. However if compost sales are complemented by other potential revenue streams, such as private toilet collection and treatment fees, the full costs of providing ecological sanitation services are quickly covered.

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Elisabeth
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Elisabeth, can you please shortly explain why you feel like cutting the thread off? For me your last posting fits quite ok under the header. What do i get wrong?

ciao
Hajo
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Dear all,

even though I said I finsh my comments in this threat.... I HAVE to add a new one.

Elisabeth we agree in many points.  To me out of the discussion between you, Dean and Hajo the topic pathogens (ascaris) is not solved 100% (to me there will never be 100%) and as a farmer I can only offer to work on solutions within my rotations.....
And the second unsolved problem is the water management if there ist a vermifiltration plant behind flush toilets and loads of water. As you wrote in the european climate there is no real water (enriched with nutrients) demand in the winter time and in (sub)tropical climate the same trouble occurs in the rain season. Whenever evaporation is lower than rainfall there is a hazard for pollution. (Thats why urine separation has big advantages)

BUT: I also (like you) learned about the value of urine and faeces about 20 years back when I met an ecologists and he told me to take my little calculator and switch on my brain...... and after that we would talk about nutrient circles in organic farming again.....

What annoys me is: 20 years later there are still lots of calculations made (and so human power wasted) in order to find the best investment possibilities for "scarce" money far away from true cost accounting and despite the fact that we just spend billions to get our economy back on the track (what track?!?!) after corona.

To me, and it might sound a bit ridiculous or exaggerated, our societies have only a chance to survive if we get in to circular economy right now! To discuss and weigh another 20 years is no solution.

You mentioned the trouble of CE in paper recycling.... who has to pay and why. Yes, the same story. And still today there is lots of paper and plastic burnt in the world and trees are cut for new paper and oil wasted for new plastic items. Because of fine calculations from well dressed men.... following the theories of David Ricardo, Adam Smith and Karl Marx and others who lived in a very different world with no limits of growths and ressources.
IN a few hours I meet man who owns a recycling company (metal) and who ist really fed up with all the regulations he has to meet and the poor quality of raw material he gets, partly not recycable. And still it is very hard for him to compete the mined metals.  Another example for bad governance in terms of CE.

Have a nice day,
Heiner
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Re: A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries

Hi Hajo,
You asked:

Elisabeth, can you please shortly explain why you feel like cutting the thread off? For me your last posting fits quite ok under the header. What do i get wrong?

I didn't suggest to cut it off but to move it into a new thread with a new title. That's because the existing thread is about Alison's paper. The thread title is "A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries" but the discussion has now broadened about different sanitation systems and different fertilisers... E.g. the container based systems in Haiti are not producing faecal sludge but fairly dry faecal matter. Alison's paper was about faecal sludge reuse. Also I want to take her "out of the firing line", otherwise it may feel like she has to defend her research again. 

Let's see how this thread develops. The splitting off can still be done (by a moderator) at any time later.

Elisabeth
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