The Biofil toilet technology for onsite sanitation in poor urban communities (Ghana, Senegal, Bangladesh)

  • elkv
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SanMark-CITY: Intelligent Design in Urban Sanitation Marketing- quick glimpse

Note by moderator: the first post of this thread used to be in another thread about testing several toilet technologies in Bangladesh by ICCO ("SanMark-CITY: Intelligent Design in Urban Sanitation Marketing"), see here .

More information about the Biofil technology is also available in this thread:

forum.susana.org/forum/categories/70-com...t-usa-and-ghana#4870

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Dear Eliza,
I did indeed have a fabulous field trip with your colleague Sarwar and his team! I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along with Peter Owusu from Biofil in Ghana, who was doing a follow-up on the systems. Some reflections below that I shared in email form with Sarwar and Peter after the visit and that it may be interesting for the SuSanA readers to partake:

I was positively surprised by the functionality of the Biofil systems that we visited, by the lack of smell from the digesters for almost all systems! The system seems relatively robust and pleasant to use, as long as not too many users are frequenting the toilet. It can be produced with local material and skills, which is a huge advantage compared to some of the other systems tested in the project. If the Biofil system really can show not to accumulate any sludge and with sustained no smell or operational problems, that the “grass flies” are no vectors of disease, and if a sustainable model for O&M can be developed it is certainly an interesting technology for areas of Dhaka where the infiltration works (the dependency on infiltration capacity may be the system’s weakest technical link in the Dhaka setting, the same as for a septic tank to function properly).

It will be most interesting to read the ITN-BUET reports at the end of the testing year, and better understand the effluent quality, the functionality in terms of no sludge accumulation and how it works for the families, tests on decreasing the costs etc. It will also be most interesting to better understand the improvements in terms of effluent treatment that Biofil, to my understanding, are working on. For better overall functionality, in a setting where control of effluent quality is higher than in Dhaka, there is a need, I would assume, to remove (or reuse for the N, P and organic matter) both N, P, organic matter and pathogens from the effluent to comply to discharge standards. I certainly look forward to better understand the Biofil system in the future by keeping myself informed on the progression of the project in Dhaka as well as the development of Biofil in Ghana.

Kind regards

Elisabeth

Elisabeth Kvarnström
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  • ekellogg
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Re: The Biofil toilet technology for onsite sanitation in poor urban communities (Ghana, Senegal, Bangladesh)

Note by moderator: the next two posts of this thread used to be in another thread about the SaTo pan here .

More information about the Biofil technology is also available in this thread:

forum.susana.org/forum/categories/70-com...t-usa-and-ghana#4870

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In the fall of 2014 we installed 10 prototype Biofil units in a peri-urban region of Dakar, Senegal area as part of a project "Provision of an innovative Biofil toilet system for flooded and flood-prone areas of Pikine and Guediawaye, Dakar, Senegal." This project was done by Biofilcom (Biological filters and Composters, Ltd of Accra, Ghana) under contract with the local office in Dakar of Oxfam/America. My firm, Kellogg Consulting, was the project manager, consulting for Biofilcom.

We installed ten Biofil systems, which consist of a toilet with privacy enclosure and the Biofil biodigester, in private households. Some use SaTo pans, others use flush toilets or the Biofil microflush toilet. They are located in flooded and flood-prone neighborhoods, which require the toilets and digesters being elevated above the level of flooding that occurs in the rainy season, up to 80 cm levels of standing water. These systems are presently being evaluated for suitability and environmental compatibility by Oxfam.

You can see a video about this project at
drive.google.com/file/d/0B1AOTckibvV1bml...NWs/view?usp=sharing


Edwin Kellogg, PhD
Kellogg Consulting

Edwin Kellogg, PhD
Partner, Kellogg Consultants, LLC
Boston, Massachusetts
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Re: Sanitation Product Development for Sub-Saharan Africa - affordable, aspirational latrine products, SaTo (American Standard Brands, USA and Water for People)

Dear Edwin,

Thanks for your post about your project in Dakar with the SaTo pan.
I watched your video (which doesn't show the SaTo pan, but does show the Biofil toilet in detail) and I have some further questions for you.
But I think we should start a separate thread on that.
The project that you mentioned ("Provision of an innovative Biofil toilet system for flooded and flood-prone areas of Pikine and Guediawaye, Dakar, Senegal.") was mentioned last year in the forum here (call for proposals):
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/95-cal...ood-areas-in-senegal

And also here by Mbay on Page 2 of this discussion exactly one year ago:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/99-fae...mit=12&start=12#8824

Mbaye had said back then:

We launched an international tender and more than 20 bids were received. They range from traditional dry toilet to toilet producing energy and without sludge. The selection is about to be made and detailed information will be shared later.


As I always wonder "so what came out of your calls for proposals? Or what came out of the trials?", it is great to see your post and video. I will put some questions about your project into a separate thread, in order not to mix up things with the SaTo pan too much.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: Occurrence of On-site Sanitation Technologies in Poor Urban Communities: A case of the Biofil Toilet Technology (Accra, Ghana)

I hold a first degree in B.Sc. Civil Engineering and a second degree in M.Sc. Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science. I am currently undertaking my PhD studies at KNUST.
Once I receive my PhD, I hope to become a Sanitation Practitioner and a Mentor to young and enthusiastic Sanitary Engineers towards improving the sanitation situation in Ghana and beyond to change the face of sanitation delivery. I am excited to join the team that will help revolutionize the sanitation sector in Ghana and beyond with the Biofil Toilet system.

This presentation was developed based on my experiences while working with an International NGO in 9 urban communities of Ghana. The sanitation challenges in these settings were enormous. Issues regarding limited space, lack of access for desludging, complex settings, frequent desludging, high water table and rocky grounds making the installation of traditional toilet facilities difficult. I was motivated to find a lasting and sustainable solution to meet these peculiar sanitation needs. My search got me in contact with Mr Kweku Akuam Anno, the originator/inventor of the Biofil Toilet Technology. A number of this technology were installed in these communities. In the bid to optimize the performance of the technology, I have been involved in the research and redevelopment of the Biofil Toilet System.

Peter Owusu-Antwi (BSc, MSc)
Research Fellow, SMART Sanitation (KNUST-UNESCO IHE)
Tel: 233-244972299, 233-208555315
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Re: The Biofil toilet technology for onsite sanitation in poor urban communities (Ghana, Senegal, Bangladesh)

Dear Peter,

Thanks a lot for posting your presentation about the Biofil toilet technology in Accra, Ghana. I have re-arranged some other previous posts about Biofil toilets into this new thread to keep it together and focused in one place (you find the other posts by scrolling up). I hope people are finding this useful.

I watched the video that Edwin posted in the post above yours. It's about Biofil toilets in Senegal as part of a project by Oxfam.
This is the link to the video and from 6:45 onwards, the Biofil toilet is explained:
drive.google.com/file/d/0ByxG4JgJ4fkWNTlVc3RUV0hKODA/view

I have some small questions arising from watching the video and from looking at your presentation:
  1. Kweku pointed out that it's an aerobic system. But I couldn't really figure out how the air gets in there?
  2. If it's aerobic and biological, is it fair to call it a composting process (I have moved it into the composting process category for this reason)?
  3. I see you call it also a digester. Digester for me sounds more like a biogas system. But I take it this process here is aerobic so I wonder what you mean with digester?
  4. In the video it says that the system never needs to be desludged, or at least not earlier than 15 years. The video says the sludge in the digester "turns to sand" over the years but you can use it as fertiliser in your garden (which is a bit contradictory as sand is no fertiliser?). What makes this system produce so little sludge or compost compared to other systems like composting toilets or UDDTs? Is it because a lot of the organic matter actually goes out in the liquid effluent which the video says can be used for toilet flushing or irrigation? What exactly is the effluent quality like? Elisabeth pointed out in her post (see beginning of this thread) that:

    It will also be most interesting to better understand the improvements in terms of effluent treatment that Biofil, to my understanding, are working on. For better overall functionality, in a setting where control of effluent quality is higher than in Dhaka, there is a need, I would assume, to remove (or reuse for the N, P and organic matter) both N, P, organic matter and pathogens from the effluent to comply to discharge standards.

  5. Have you also installed toilets that do not require stairs to access them to make it easier for people with disabilities?
  6. How much would the kind of Biofil toilet that is shown in this video cost? What is your target price in the future when the costs have come down? Which components do you think you can produce more cheaply in future when it's mass produced?
  7. What are the plans for scaling this up? Which countries are you targeting in particular? I assume Ghana would be your number 1 country as the company is based in Ghana?
  8. Are any parts of this toilet system patented or otherwise copyright protected?
I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks in advance for your time.

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: Questions Experts Ask vs Questions PRISTO Customers Ask (about Biofil Toilet Systems)

Title: Questions Experts Ask vs Questions PRISTO Customers Ask (about Biofil Toilet Systems)

I noted with interest the list of questions Elisabeth posed to Peter Owusu Antwi, a senior scientist at Biological Filters & Composters, on 27 August - see post just above this one.

I'm looking forward to getting Peter's answers, but in the meantime I thought the SuSanA community might be interested in the questions potential buyers ask. I'm the marketing and communications consultant for PRISTO (see forum.susana.org/forum/categories/205-to...rii-bv-as-lead#15720 ). We've been working on ways of presenting clear, concise and accurate information, about Biofil Toilet Systems to answer customer questions.

PRISTO buyers want to know 3 things, and often only 3 things:
(1) Will it smell? If not, why not?
(2) Will I be dislodging excrement or compost? If not, why not?
(3) Will bugs come into my house? If not, why not?

One might hope they would ask "What happens to the effluent?" but we don't usually hear that question from potential PRISTO customers.

Here are the talking points for the 3 most asked questions:

1. No. Digesters don't smell because dried out excrement doesn't smell. The liquid is drained off, leaving the solids on a "dinner table" where it dries out quickly in the heat of the digester box. The resident bugs germs and worms begin eating newly served excrement immediately. That helps, too. No odor.

2. No. The bugs, germs and worms eat it all; leaving nothing to dislodge and nothing left to turn into compost. Organisms get their energy for living, moving around and pro-creating by eating human waste. They exhale carbon dioxide (like we do) and their excrement is tiny. It will take years, but eventually you might get enough rich and clean humus to sprinkle across a small garden plot.

3. No. The digester is the dining room where dinner is served. They go there, not into nearby homes where they would have to work hard to find anything to eat. The box gives them a home where they are safe from predators and meals are served frequently. Why would they venture into a house for humans?

The best "sell" is for potential buyers to "see one, smell one." Seeing is believing, and not smelling is also believing.

SuSanA members: please chime in with your ideas for how to give clear and concise information.

Regards,
Diane

Diane M. Kellogg
Partner, Kellogg Consultants
Private Sector Specialist, BMGF grant to SuSanA
Marketing Consultant, PRISTO (RVO-funded grant)
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Re: Questions Experts Ask vs Questions PRISTO Customers Ask (about Biofil Toilet Systems)

Dear all,

Wouldn't a solution to the effluent problem of this toilet be separation of urine at source? Like a UDDT, only it's not dehydrating? The remaining effluent could then be treated by a mini wetland, a canna bed or something like that. And the urine used as a fertilizer.

Kind regards, H-A

Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
presently in Seesen, Germany
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Re: Questions Experts Ask vs Questions PRISTO Customers Ask (about Biofil Toilet Systems)

Thanks for your comment. The inventor, Kweku Anno, is keen on treating and/or recovering the nutrients from the effluent and has been working on designs for incorporating plantings to receive the effluent directly from the digester. His preference, I believe, is to avoid any human handling of any of the waste products. I'm not sure if Mr. Anno has considered a urine-diverting system as part of the toilet bowl. You can email him directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with suggestions and questions.


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Note by moderator: a general discussion about this kind of vermicomposting digester has been split off into this separate thread: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/205-ve...er-pollution-aspects

Diane M. Kellogg
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Marketing Consultant, PRISTO (RVO-funded grant)
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Re: Questions Experts Ask vs Questions PRISTO Customers Ask (about Biofil Toilet Systems)

Here is the website of BIOFILCOM GHANA ( www.biofilcom.net ).

There you will see installations of the Biofil Toilet System several years ago. These are not diagrams neither are they prototypes. I think it is important to mention that GSAP paid BIOFILCOM (Mr Anno; the inventor of the Biofil Toilet System) for the Biofil toilets to be installed under their project.

Microflush seat (BIOFILCOM), squat, WC are only part of the interface. The main treatment unit is the primary treatment which we call "Biofil digester".

Peter Owusu-Antwi (BSc, MSc)
Research Fellow, SMART Sanitation (KNUST-UNESCO IHE)
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