Humans generate millions of tons of waste every day. This waste is rich in water, nutrients and energy. Yet, waste is not being managed in a way that permits us to derive value from its resources. Meanwhile, millions of small-holders in low-income countries struggle with depleted soils, lack of water and limited access to energy. Although composting and wastewater reuse are well known processes, most initiatives aiming at resource recovery & reuse (RRR) heavily depend on subsidies and remain small, often not surviving beyond their pilot phase. Hopeful signs of viable commercial approaches to resource recovery and reuse are emerging around the globe including low-income countries.
Many of these new commercial pathways are being charted in the informal sector, delivering innovative approaches for cost-recovery through fecal sludge reuse; wastewater irrigation and aquaculture; co-composting of waste sources; and waste-based energy systems to meet household needs. A new approach is needed to implement viable solutions at scale which support livelihoods, enhance food security, support green economies and contribute to cost recovery in the sanitation chain. On the other hand, given the increasing use of various waste streams for urban and peri-urban agriculture, public health aspects of resource recovery have to be better understood and managed.
In 2012, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a 3-year project, jointly led by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), International Centre for Water Management Services (CEWAS) and the Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (SANDEC) was developed with the overall goal to:
- to analyze, pilot test and implement globally and at large scale recovery and safe reuse models of resources generated from liquid and solid waste streams in order to promote food security, public health, environmental protection and livelihood opportunities in poor urban and peri-urban areas in developing
Sanitation Business Models for Safe Resource Recovery and Reuse (RRR)
Functional sanitation systems improve health and welfare and are fundamental to human development. Integrated business models throughout the sanitation value chain can turn waste into valuable resources such as biofuels or fertilizer and save water thus leading to even broader livelihood improvements. Most sanitation initiatives to reuse waste have depended heavily on subsidies, remained small or did not survive beyond their pilot phase. A new approach is needed to make resource recovery and safe reuse (RR&R) solutions viable at scale and protective of public health.