Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

Dear Bin Fan,

Thanks a lot for this interesting project description! It is amazing how much you got down in just one year of grant duration. Your grant is by the way the second grant we have on this forum from China (see here for the other one: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/105-pr...ijiazhuang-uni-china ).

And I wonder if you saw a previous discussion we had here on the forum about vacuum sewer systems, maybe you find it interesting: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/39-mis...inking-vacuum-sewers

After reading your grant description and results, I have some easy questions for you:
  1. What is the company that supplied the vacuum toilets? Are they big in China? Have they sold many of them in China already?
  2. Can you explain a bit more what you meant with this sentence?

    The black water was cleared away by a local fecal treatment plant

    Do you mean treated? What kind of fecal treatment plant, which process does it use? How does it reach pathogen kill, or lets say how much pathogen kill did it reach?
  3. When you did the reuse experiments with blackwater, how do you ensure a certain level of hygienic safety? Which vegetables did you use?
For the last question maybe you find this discussion thread useful:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/35-bio...fertilizer-bioslurry

What are your views about those Chinese technical codes for application of anaerobic digestate fertiliser which were discussed in that thread? Are they good?

Welcome to the forum!

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Elisabeth

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  • A scientist who is working on a systematic solution to the resource-oriented sanitation, which is different from flush-toilet-end-pipe-treatment, meets the needs of not only the poor but also the rich, so that all people can live a good and sustainable happy life.
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

I consider the vacuum collection (generally including sanitary appliances, pipe system and vacuum pump station) is the best way to realize the concept of Ecosan. Although the current municipal sewage system based on traditional water-flush has many drawbacks, it has two principal elements should be inherited in any future sanitation modes: (1) use water to clean the sanitary appliance (e.g. toilets) because water is almost the only medium being considered “clean”; (2) remove the ‘dirty’ matters (e.g. excreta) away from dwelling places at once and at a least distance outside seeing and olfaction, so pipeline is almost the exclusive choice. Fortunately, vacuum can satisfy the both with 1/10 water comparing with that used by the traditional water flush. The later is also obligatory because too much water content in the collected slurries would make resource reclamation impossible.

Does vacuum sewage system too expensive or too technical for running? This is a pseudo-preposition. Is the manufacturing and operating difficulty of a vacuum toilet, its pipeline or vacuum pump-station more than a car? Definitely nay! The modern industrial methods can make the vacuum sewage system as inexpensive as the traditional gravity system, if not more cheaper. The key question is how large quantity such a market is. However, scientists as well as entrepreneurs, the citizens and especially the politicians should work together, to promote realization of the new sanitation mode basing on integrated vacuum collection of domestic bio-wastes. The money spent in domestic wastewater and wastes treatment might be much higher than the vacuum system need.

The hope is in China I believe, though I know the most famous manufacturer is currently in Germany (Roediger), Switzerland (EVAC), America (AIRVAC)、Norway (JETS), and etc. There is a huge market of a 500,000,000-population in the next 2 or 3 decades in China, and the Chinese industrialists can make any industrial products the most cheap in the world. I do understand the urgent needs of sanitation of the people who live in other development areas, but sanitation affairs is 90% of the social and politics, and less than 10% of the science and technology!

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

(re-post) Thanks a lot for your interesting in Chinese decentralized sanitation as well as my grant work. I will go visit the posts you suggested. The following is my answer to your questions:

Q1: Things become a little complex when entangled with commerce. However, supports from industry are very wanted. There are several companies being able to provide vacuum equipments in China, most of which come of mobile toilets manufacturing (e.g. those used in high railway). The biggest one can sell 10,000 sets of vacuum toilets per year, however less than 1/10 of which are currently related with municipal sanitation.

Q2: Before the trial farm field was built in the earlier of this year, we had to ask a local fecal treatment plant to provide paid service. The black water was delivered to the fecal treatment plant using a fecal suction truck. Most cities in china has such fecal treatment plants, which usually belong to municipal sanitation management organizations and are used to treat slums of the septic tanks and the fecal of the public toilets outside sewage pipelines. Pathogen is not the question after the fecal being treated in these treatment plants.

Q3: I understand your concerning about the hygienic safety. The black water is not direct contact with the above-ground parts of the vegetables, which include aubergine, tomato and rice. I and my team members have regaled on the aubergines and the tomatoes, and their tastes are very nice! We had to sell them in market because we can’t eat so much. Our Chinese seldom eat raw vegetables. However, hygienic safety has been listed in our research plan.

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

Definitely a worthwhile line of research. Personally I have since then moved on and are not in research anymore (personal reasons), but I still think it would make a lot of sense to develop a really low cost vacuum sewer system.

I think the original designs from from around 1900 can still give a lot of insights regarding that (most of the original patents are publicly available online). They did for example use common appliances in the house and not those complex and expensive vacuum toilets.

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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

The bottleneck of the vacuum ecosan application is not in technology but in the background government policies and its business model.

The technical system of the vacuum ecosan usually comprises 6 units: (1) indoor appliances, e.g. vacuum toilets and vacuum kitchen waste collectors, (2) outdoor pipelines, (3) vacuum pump-station, (4) onsite establishments for storing and pretreating the heavy waters (e.g.,black water, yellow water and so on), and sometimes even for onsite resource reclamation and reusing, (5) heavy water transferring and organic fertilizer preparing, and (6) agriculture or organic agriculture. From the view of technique, all the unit technology is almost ready at present, even if not so matured. The urgently wanted technique is to integrate the whole system and make every part run soundly, especially the indoor appliances. I don't think such questions cannot be overcome today though I know that the progress in technology is always needed.
Almost all the manufacturers of this field and some investors show high strong interesting in the vacuum ecosan mode. I dream to establish a close loop to serve for 100,000 populations. Only in this scale can each unit technique and the system integration be rounded, and especially the economical advantages, the environmental advantages and the social effects of the vacuum ecosan will be in full play!

How much money is needed? Total cost is about 50 million dollars, however 5 million dollars is enough to start and promote such a program. The government, companies and the residents can assume 30, 50, 20 percent of the other investment need respectively.

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

FYI, see a neutral and balanced science report on the issues involved from Canada: www.iwaponline.com/wst/06412/wst064122417.htm

Economic viability and critical influencing factors assessment of black water and grey water source-separation sanitation system
C. Thibodeau, F. Monette, M. Glaus and C. B. Laflamme

Département de génie de la construction, STEPPE-École de Technologie Supérieure, 1100, Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 1K3 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Laboratoire des technologies de l'énergie, Institut de recherche d'Hydro-Québec, 600 avenue de la Montagne, Shawinigan, Québec, Canada G9N 7N5

ABSTRACT

The black water and grey water source-separation sanitation system aims at efficient use of energy (biogas), water and nutrients but currently lacks evidence of economic viability to be considered a credible alternative to the conventional system. This study intends to demonstrate economic viability, identify main cost contributors and assess critical influencing factors. A technico-economic model was built based on a new neighbourhood in a Canadian context. Three implementation scales of source-separation system are defined: 500, 5,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. The results show that the source-separation system is 33% to 118% more costly than the conventional system, with the larger cost differential obtained by lower source-separation system implementation scales. A sensitivity analysis demonstrates that vacuum toilet flow reduction from 1.0 to 0.25 L/flush decreases source-separation system cost between 23 and 27%. It also shows that high resource costs can be beneficial or unfavourable to the source-separation system depending on whether the vacuum toilet flow is low or normal. Therefore, the future of this configuration of the source-separation system lies mainly in vacuum toilet flow reduction or the introduction of new efficient effluent volume reduction processes (e.g. reverse osmosis).

Keywords: anaerobic digestion; black and grey water; cost contributors; economic viability; source-separation sanitation system; vacuum toilets

Regards,
Detlef

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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

Thanks a lot for recommending readings. It’s an excellence work, but the conclusions might be quite different if the application contexts are in China. There are huge amounts of villages (about 250,000,000) and small towns (about 20,000) which have long histories. Most of them haven’t built the minimum modern sewage systems because tap water and modern home sanitary appliances (e.g. shower and water-flush toilet) have just been spread for several years, and most of whose dwellers are not willing to migrate to a new settlement (e.g. of a 50,000 population). In such places decentralized systems, either using source separation mode or using traditional mode, are almost the exclusive choice. So in china, S-50,000 and C-50,000 must means 100 (even more) S-500 and C-500. Will the conclusions be the same as in Canada?

Additionally, except for some other presumptions might also be different between the two country, the model of the source-separation system (see Fig.1 in the article) is also questionable, at least some key technical links, e.g. grey water collection and treatment, can be more optimized. Furthermore, the assessment neglected the negative effects of the chemical fertilizer on environment and food, both of which are serious in China.

However, we thanks again for the authors. They give us many useful elicitations for our research plan. Please continue to pay attention to the vacuum source-separation in China as well as in our works.

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

I am very grateful to Elisabeth for her encouragement, and she wants me to continue the thread that began seven years ago.

First of all, I'd like to thank the bill-Melinda Gates foundation for giving me the opportunity to conduct a demonstration project combining the technology of vacuum piping with the needs of domestic sanitation and pollution management. The demonstration project was completed in early 2011 at the Chentang Village, Guli town, Changshu Prefecture, Jiangsu province of China. The demonstration project is still serving the residents of the Chentang Village. The demonstration was featured in China Daily (PP6, 6 January 2016) and CCTV-NEWS (News Report, 27 April 2017). The China Daily report, titled "Toilet Revolution in Chentang Village", was published seven months before President Xi Jinping officially declared that "China's rural areas need a toilet revolution".

Around 2014, the Bill-Melinda Gates foundation encouraged the first-stage winners of the Grand Challenge Exploration Award to re-apply for the second-stage projects of $1 million. I gave up the chance because I didn't think I had done well enough, but I never gave up on the research leads I started. I firmly believe that the vacuum source-separation is according with " the next generation of sanitation technology" and is the unique alternative to the end-pipe-treatment mode marked by FLUSH-TOILET at the level of popular use so far. Over the past seven years, I have used the domestic research grants I have received in China to basically turn this technology into a more complete system with competitive price and good service. We now call it " the modern home-farm cycle" in honor of the "traditional home-farm cycle" on which the Chinese have lived since 4000-year ago. We now produce our own vacuum toilets, vacuum kitchen cleaner and vacuum pump stations. We can also provide operation maintenance services with remote monitoring and early warning functions.

According to the capacity of the small production line we have established so far, I can complete a project of 10,000 households in one year at a competitive price comparing with the conventional sewer and wastewater treatment. On this basis, if with another order of 100,000 households, I can fully realize my dream: on the premise of meeting the modernization of environmental sanitation and pollution control, reduce the total construction and operation cost of rural toilet revolution by 50% and increase the sustainable development index by 70%. I believe this is also the dream of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPEMENT in the field of human sanitation.

In November 2017, we built a more complete demonstration project in the Hangqiao Village, Rugao Prefecture, Jiangsu Province of China. On the level of modernization, this demonstration project perfectly solves the problems of rural Toilet Revolution, which covers not only toilet but the whole sanitation and pollution control system including all the domestic wastewater and wsates. Since the completion of the project, more than 50 delegations have been received, including the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Asian Development Bank, the Jiangsu provincial government and the Nantong municipal government. We also set up the WeChat public account. Just from November 2017 to December 2018, we published 62 original articles, which were clicked on 48,503 times and read by 25,145 people.

We have made a short video introduction of the demonstration project of Hangqiao village, and I hope Elisabeth can give me a channel to upload to the website for everyone to have a look.

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085

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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

These days are in a special time, which coincides with the Chinese Lunar New Year. First of all, I wish everybody a Happy Spring Festival!
This Spring Festival has been marked by the horrors of a new coronavirus. Although this plague is a little far from the toilet, but actually also belongs to the broad sanitation category. China's economy, society and environment are at a critical historical stage in its evolution from a traditional mode to a modern one. Many problems that seem to be beyond the reach of both developed and underdeveloped countries are emerging here. This is both a challenge and an opportunity, not only for China, but also for all mankind. Like it or not, China is rewriting the path of human modernization with its own charm.

Toilet revolution, the ultimate goal is to achieve the modernization of human environmental sanitation and pollution control. Although specific forms of technology must be rooted in specific development background, to modernize sanitation, settlement environment and eco-environment services is one common dream of the world's underdeveloped people.

Flush toilet has established a universally accepted norm for the modernization of sanitation, that toilet waste must be able to leave the living room immediately. Based on this principle, in the current stage of scientific and technological development, pipeline is almost the only choice to achieve modern environmental sanitation. By analogy, vacuum source-separation is the only option for the next generation of sanitation. It is hoped that more scientists, social activists, politicians, engineers and investors will work together to make ‘the modern home-farm cycle’ replace the end-pipe-treatment sanitation in technology, industry and engineering.

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

A delegation from the Asian development bank (ADB) China visited the Hangqiao demonstration project on January 20, 2020.They gave a high rating to the modern home-farm cycle mode and the Hangqiao demonstration project.

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085

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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

Thanks again for Elisabeth's encourage. She and I have had some email exchanges recently.She asked me some questions and encouraged me to continue the topic thread so that others can also benefit.

question of Elisabeth: which translation app do you used? (I once complained to her that Chinese people rarely visit the SusanA website because they are not good at English. But now I find that this is no longer a trouble, because there are translation Apps that can translate whole paragraphs of Chinese into English quickly and well. )
Answere of Bin: The translation App I used is the Netease Youdao Dictionary. Sometimes I also use the Baidu online Translation. In fact, there are several free translation APP in webs except for the uper two. I Think mankind is not far from completing the Babel.

(She adviced me posting here the text which she highlighted in yellow in my email to her. )
I received a $100,000 grant from the Gates foundation in 2010, which allowed me to begin my current work with great results. The reason I didn't apply for the $1 million grant was because I felt the bar was too high and I was afraid to waste my time. If given the chance, I still hope to get another grant from the Gates foundation. I think my team have a solution to the toilet revolution around the world, including the basic equipment technology, but the barriers to widespread adoption are too great. The main obstacle is not technology, but the perceptions of key-stakeholders. One key-stakeholder is the officials of government, another key-stakeholder is the residents. Both of them believe that only flush toilet is modernization, and neither of them cares much about what happens after the flush toilets and what it costs. I hope that the technology revolution will be ultimately realized in industry as well as in engineering by "(demonstration→change perception) - (expanding demonstration→reduce costs, improve technology, change perception further) -..." .

Bin Fan
Professor

Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences (RCEES), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) ( www.rcees.ac.cn )

North research center for rural wastewater treatment technology, ministry of housing and urban-rural development of the people’s republic of China ( www.nrcrwtt.ac.cn/ )

Shuangqing Road 18, Haidian District, Beijing 100085
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Re: Low-cost decentralized sanitation system based on vacuum collection and reuse of excreta and kitchen waste (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)

fanbin wrote: According to the capacity of the small production line we have established so far, I can complete a project of 10,000 households in one year at a competitive price comparing with the conventional sewer and wastewater treatment.


This sounds excellent. Thanks for sharing. Could you maybe also share some pictures of the specific equippment you developed? In one of the presentations I see a stainless steel vacuum chamber that looks very interesting.

As for uploading a video, I guess YouTube and the like are blocked in China? Maybe try one of the federated PeerTube instances:
joinpeertube.org/
It's a sort of decentralized YouTube that should be accessible from China I hope.

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