Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums - project re.source (Stanford University, USA and SOIL Haiti)

  • stilmans
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Dear Colleagues,

I'm happy to announce the recent publication of a peer-reviewed article I wrote with colleagues Kory Russel, Rachel Sklar, Leah Page, Sasha Kramer, and Jenna Davis providing results on our project, re.source that has been discussed in this thread. Thanks to generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this article is available Open Access on the publisher's website at the link here: http://eau.sagepub.com/content/27/1/89.full.pdf

The title of the paper is: Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Consider this to be Part One of our publications. Another article, led by Kory and focusing on the impacts of our CBS service on community residents' attitudes, preferences, and demand for sanitation is due to be published in October 2015 in the same journal, Environment & Urbanization.

Abstract:

Container-based sanitation (CBS) – in which wastes are captured in sealable containers that are then transported to treatment facilities – is an alternative sanitation option in urban areas where on-site sanitation and sewerage are infeasible. This paper presents the results of a pilot household CBS service in Cap Haitien, Haiti. We quantify the excreta generated weekly in a dense urban slum,(1) the proportion safely removed via container-based public and household toilets, and the costs associated with these systems. The CBS service yielded an approximately 3.5-fold decrease in the unmanaged share of faeces produced, and nearly eliminated the reported use of open defecation and “flying toilets” among service recipients. The costs of this pilot small-scale service were higher than those of large-scale waterborne sewerage, but economies of scale have the potential to reduce CBS costs over time. The paper concludes with a discussion of planning and policy implications of incorporating CBS into the menu of sanitation options for rapidly growing cities.

Some links to discussions of the project and results:

- My presentation and video at FSM3 conference:

(go to point 1h8m56s if the link below doesn't take you there directly:
)



- Various documents and presentations from Kory, including his FSM3 slides

Video (go to point 13:05 if the link below doesn't take you there directly:
):



- Workshop on CBS at FSM3
- Our website
- Our Partner SOIL's website
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  • muench
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Dear Sebastien,

Thanks for your post, it looks like a very well researched, documented and disseminated project (great that your publication is open access).

Given that you and Kory are both PhD students (or already finished?), what are your plans for after your PhDs? I know that your work in Haiti was at some point funded by the Gates Foundation but that funding has stopped. However, the work continues with SOIL Haiti based on private donations and perhaps other grants, right?
What are your plans with your own NGO re:source?

On the topic of NGOs, this reminds me of a tweet that I recently read by Doreen Mbalo (who also writes on the forum):

Doreen Mbalo @Doreen_Mbalo · 16. Mai
NGOs stop coming to construct toilets without thinking of the sanitation value chain. Stop experimenting in Kenya! #dignity #sanitation

I think re:source and SOIL are different though because you certainly think of the value chain; but still it shows the limitations of what NGOs can achieve on a larger scale if the local government is for whatever reason not pulling their weight.

Anyhow, do you have any thoughts on this, is there any new funding on the horizon? Or any subsidy schemes by the local government perhaps? As with the user fees alone it is probably impossible to make it all work out financially, given the costs for collection, composting etc. Even when factoring in the sales of the compost, it is probably still not financially viable - or is it getting close?

On another note: do you think the term "container based sanitation" (or "cartridge based sanitation" (which one is better?)) is here to stay? If it is, then how about ensuring that some information is available about it on Wikipedia?

You could possibly add a couple of sentences about it here on Wikipedia (unless we are not yet sure if the term will really "stick"):
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation#Types

Ultimately, a full-blown Wikipedia article on container based sanitation could also be possible. It might have some overlap with this part of the Wikipedia UDDT article on portable and mobile UDDTs (which was mostly written by Kai Forlie):
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine-diverting_dr...ortable.2C_mobile.29

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • stilmans
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Dear Elisabeth,

Thanks for your kind words and questions. I wrote a long response, but the page expired and it was lost when I pressed the submit button. Here is a second attempt.

We're excited about this work because we believe it's important to provide rigorous research about CBS. This is only the first part of a two-part series. The second paper, also open access thanks to support from the Gates Foundation (BMGF), will be published in October. We will post links to it when it's available.

Funding for our work so far has come from BMGF, but also the Stanford Woods Institute, Stanford's SEED institute, the US EPA, and the UPS Foundation. We continue to work with several existing CBS services, including our friends at SOIL, helping to develop tools and research that will help them scale. As you mentioned in a recent post, scale is the next big challenge for CBS. As our efforts come to fruition, we will share them.

Meanwhile, SOIL is the best place to provide updated information on their service, as things continue to evolve. They continue to expand the service, and I believe they also have high compost sales.

On the question of financial viability: I am confident that CBS services can be financially viable through user fees and revenues from resource recovery. My bigger concern is that cost-recovering user fees may exclude people who need the service the most. I don't know of examples in which any service (including high-income country utilities) have achieved universal coverage without subsidies. We appreciated Heiko Gebauer's presentation at FSM3, Scaling-up sanitation businesses in low- and middle-income countries, touching on these challenges. Ultimately, we see potential for cross-subsidy systems and government involvement, as a way to ensure access. It is important to continue to demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of CBS as a way to mobilize these additional resources.

We agree whole-heartedly with Doreen Mbalo's tweet that building toilets without considering the whole value chain is inadequate and potentially nefarious. That is why all of our work and that of the groups we work with is focused on end-to-end solutions. But we need more experimentation, not less. Clearly, current systems have failed, so we need thoughtful experimentation and research- on business models, policies, incentives, financing mechanisms, technology, etc.- if we hope to make progress. Building toilets without planning for the value chain is not "experimenting". There is nothing experimental about that old, flawed approach that has shown little evidence of success. We believe the path forward is to pursue user-centric approaches, perform and share rigorous evaluations, and adapt rapidly to evidence of success or failure.

We also believe government involvement is crucial. We and SOIL established the pilot under the approval and inspections of DINEPA, Haiti's national water and sanitation authority. They subjected us to a rigorous review (as should be the case) before approving our plans, and we have kept them well informed of all results. In the future, we believe that deeper government involvement (in regulation, public-private partnerships, etc.) is a key path to scale for all sanitation service models.

And finally, I do hope CBS is a term that will stick. I think it solves challenges that other solutions are inadequate for, and it is an important element of the menu of sanitation options that will be needed to deliver high-quality sanitation service in cities. Let's have a follow-up discussion as to what is best to include in a Wikipedia article.

Cheers,

Sebastien and Kory
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  • muench
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Thank you Sebastien and Kory for your comprehensive reply!

You mentioned the presentation by Heiko Gebauer - I also found that one very interesting and can highly recommend it:

Scaling-up sanitation businesses in low- and middle-income countries: Heiko Gebauer, Eawag, Duebendorf, Switzerland
presentation:http://www.susana.org/images/documents/07-cap-dev/b-conferences/15-FSM3/Day-1/Rm-2/1-2-1-4Schoebitz.pdf

Video:


Or go to time 52:00 here:



The discussion started at 1:05:19 or click here:



A few of the people raised resource recovery aspects in connection with upscaling aspects (e.g. Michael Quintern from New Zealand who has a business on vermi-composting who pointed out that "transport is a killer" (in terms of costs))

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  • DavidAlan
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

For me the issue in the presentation is contained in the final words in the last slide:

(How can we manage complex sanitation business models?)

Must we always look for the complex solution? Our container based system is very low-tech and deals with circa 5,000 people daily. Our modules are designed along a similar line (i.e. 5,000 people). Instead of looking for the grand scheme, there is nothing wrong placing smaller pieces of a sanitation jigsaw that, when combined, reveal the whole picture. Scaling up does not need to be suddenly dealing with tens of thousands of people – as long as the system can be self-sustaining.
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  • stilmans
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Hi David,

I'd love to learn more about your CBS service- is it the one in Cuddalore ? The description on your website makes it sound extremely successful, in particular because sales of compost pay for the whole service! Is there more information on this service (how customers in India react to the fecal nature of the compost, cost structure, treatment process etc.)? It sounds like a set of experiences that would be great to share.

I think the point is that even "simple" systems become complex when you work at the scale of a full city. I agree that we likely need jigsaw pieces, a menu of sanitation options. However, individual modules of 5,000 must still fit within a city-wide plan, which inevitably entails complexity.

In fact, we do need solutions that achieve large scale, rapidly- 750 million people lacking access to "improved" sanitation (a low bar), 1 billion people living in slums, another 1 billion projected to live in slums by 2030- these are big numbers. If we simplistically assumed that the billion people projected to live in slums arrived linearly over 20 years from 2010-2030, that's 50 million people/year. We would need to deploy 10,000 systems every year, each serving 5,000 people, just to keep pace and maintain the status quo. Scale is why sanitation is a complex problem.

@Elisabeth,

Indeed, transport is a big source of costs, and so it's worthwhile to pursue strategies that would minimize transport distances. To this point, it's important to note that compost is not the only potential resource recovery and/or treatment option for waste. Other solutions, such as the Climate Foundation's biochar processing unit or Pivot/Waste Enterprisers' fuel pellet approach or other systems might enable processing of waste on smaller footprints, closer to their points of generation. It's important to adapt each element of the sanitation value chain to each local market for best results.
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  • DavidAlan
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

It is a movable process! What we started in Cuddalore and then refined in Pondicherry has seen us change the way we approach the sale of compost quite a lot. Also we did a lot more work on the actual cost of running the service in a much larger city and realised the original premise, that compost sales alone would cover the cost, was incorrect. The web site is very out of date and our new comms person or the new web site (whichever happens first) will make sure those statements are clarified.

The problem with compost in India is that legally we are not allowed to sell it for a food product. This hasn't stopped farmers from buying it and using it on fields and see increased crops, but it has stopped us from actively selling it. We are now working on a new process that moves us away from the 'human waste' link by taking us further steps away before it becomes a marketable product. You will have to wait until we finally nail this before I can share. Sorry!

With regard to scalability, I acknowledge what you say, but still feel that smaller, more manageable modules, which in our case works on either side of the 5,000 people mark (this is not a precise figure, but one where a vehicle, compound and collection/treatment service becomes realistic), is viable as well. Of course, there will be the large scale systems that exist around the world, but in a lot of smaller, informal settlements they are not practical.
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  • kengelly
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Hi all,

Thanks for the great article. I have shared it with our team (PSI) in Ethiopia who have a bit of funding and are determined to use it towards demonstrating, on a very small scale, the viability of approaches such as these for informal settlements in Addis Ababa. (They wish to link waste treatment/reuse with the vibrant flower-growing industry which surrounds Addis.)

In Ethiopia, however, there is a strong preference for anal cleansing with water. There are many public toilets which do not provide water in Addis, and they are still used, however based on several interviews we found that consumers still aspire to water-washing and often return home to cleanse immediately after visiting public toilets.

In the article you have mentioned this challenge briefly, and it's very clear that the sheer volume of water used for anal cleansing poses significant issues for container fill rates, transportation and treatment (e.g. composting). On this note, I have three questions/thoughts.

1) Do you know of any examples of CBS that accommodate anal cleansing with water? (Apologies Elisabeth if this has already been asked elsewhere in the forum!)

2) What are your (and others') thoughts on a urine-diverting system with a third outlet for cleansing water - which is diverted into a drain? I recognize that this water is contaminated with feces, but I wonder about the concentration and whether this is a "lesser evil" than providing consumers with toilets that do not meet their personal hygiene needs.

3)Alternatively, given that my understanding of SOIL is that the urine is disposed of untreated, perhaps urine + cleansing water can be dumped together by the toilet owner/operator. Is there a simple and safe method for treating the liquid immediately before dumping?

Thanks all!

Genevieve Kelly
Intern | Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, WA USA | tel: 570-854-5075 skype: kengelly
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  • stilmans
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Re: New Publication- Container-based sanitation: assessing costs and effectiveness of excreta management in Cap Haitien, Haiti

Hi Genevieve, here are some quick responses:

1) Do you know of any examples of CBS that accommodate anal cleansing with water?

In the specific example of CBS household level toilets there is no good example that I am aware of that accommodates anal cleansing with water. It is something that we as well as others are thinking about and consider it to be an important design challenge to solve. From a traditional public toilet system there are of course many public toilets (Sulabh's toilets in India might be the prime example) have addressed or are at least thought through the problem.

2) What are your (and others') thoughts on a urine-diverting system with a third outlet for cleansing water - which is diverted into a drain? I recognize that this water is contaminated with feces, but I wonder about the concentration and whether this is a "lesser evil" than providing consumers with toilets that do not meet their personal hygiene needs.

To my knowledge, wash water is not well characterized presently. It is something we are looking into. I can’t say presently if it is or is not a lesser evil. Instinctively I would say there is less chance of contamination because the mass and concentration of fecal matter should be lower but I don't have research/evidence to back that assumption up.

As you have noted, there have been attempts to accommodate washing, specifically in the context of squat plates, through a third receptacle for wash water. This typically but not always means that the user needs to move after using the toilet and that is often inconvenient. A number of squat plate designs are actually available on SUSANA here .

3) Alternatively, given that my understanding of SOIL is that the urine is disposed of untreated, perhaps urine + cleansing water can be dumped together by the toilet owner/operator. Is there a simple and safe method for treating the liquid immediately before dumping?

You are correct that in the SOIL system the user is responsible for disposing of the urine and that is predominately accomplished with soak-away pits. It is possible that this is the best solution for the wash water as well. However, urine typically has a much lower pathogen load than feces. I would suggest looking at the work of Heather Bischel at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) who has done some fantastic work on pathogens in stored urine with the VUNA project in South Africa.

One easy way to treat wash water would be to chlorinate it, but this is not a good idea with urine. Mixing chlorine and urine creates chloramines, which are toxic and very dangerous. There could potentially be other additives that could disinfect, or even potentially the right combination of enzymes and bases to convert the urea in urine to ammonia as a way to disinfect in-situ. That last idea was the subject of a research project at Berkeley discussed on the forum here .

This is an area that we as well as others are very interested in and working on, but we are not aware of a CBS system doing this (yet). We hope to change that soon. If you are thinking of tackling this problem we would of course love to talk with you more about it.
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  • kcrussel
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Re: New Publication Part 2 - re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the recent publication of our second peer-reviewed article I wrote with colleagues Sebastien Tilmans, Sasha Kramer, Rachel Sklar, Daniel Tillias and Jenna Davis providing more results from our project, re.source that has been discussed in this thread. Again, thanks to generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this article is available Open Access on the publisher's website at the link here: http://eau.sagepub.com/content/27/2/525.full.pdf

The title of the paper is: User perceptions of and willingness to pay for household container-based sanitation services: experience from Cap Haitien, Haiti

Consider this to be Part Two of our publications. The first article, led by Sebastien and focusing on the efficacy and costs of our CBS service to capture fecal waste was published in April 2015 in the same journal, Environment & Urbanization. Further information about that paper can be found in earlier posts here on SUSANA as well.

Abstract:
Household-level container-based sanitation (CBS) services may help address the persistent challenge of providing effective, affordable sanitation services for which low-income urban households are willing to pay. Little is known, however, about user perceptions of and demand for household CBS services. This study presents the results of a pilot CBS service programme in Cap Haitien, Haiti. One hundred and eighteen households were randomly selected to receive toilets and a twice-weekly collection service. After three months, changes in these households’ satisfaction with their sanitation situation, along with feelings of pride, modernity and personal safety, were compared to 248 households in two comparison cohorts.
Following the service pilot, 71 per cent of participating households opted to continue with the container-based sanitation service as paying subscribers. The results from this study suggest that, in the context of urban Haiti, household CBS systems have the potential to satisfy many residents’ desire for safe, convenient and modern sanitation services.

Kory C. Russel
PhD Candidate
Stanford University
jennadavis.stanford.edu/people/kory-c-russel
www.resourcesanitation.com
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