Project Lead(s): Ashley Muspratt
Each day, 85% of the human waste generated on the planet is dumped into the environment without any treatment, creating what is arguably today’s biggest avoidable public health issue.
Waterborne diseases kill more than two million people annually and cause severe illness for countless others. The failure to better handle human waste is the high cost of conventional wastewater and fecal sludge treatment plants.
Pivot has a novel approach to fecal sludge management. Instead of building treatment plants, they build “factories” that use human waste as raw material for producing a renewable solid fuel for industries. Their aim is to generate enough revenue from the sale of Pivot Fuel to cover the operation and maintenance costs of the plant.
The focal point of Pivot’s project was to understand and optimize the operating parameters for solar greenhouses, which are used as a component of the the waste-to-fuel production process. Maximizing moisture removal from sludge that occurs in the greenhouses, and doing so at the lowest cost possible, is the key to making the overall process commercially viable.
Since receiving funding support, the team has built and commissioned a complete demonstration plant in Kigali, Rwanda, that processes 100 m3 of fecal sludge per day. They are selling their fuel to several Rwandan industries, including cement, clay brick and textile factories.
The approach shows potential to be urban Africa’s first financially viable solution to human waste treatment, transforming a cost burden into a profitable enterprise.
The project team was able to optimize the technical processes and become adept with plant operations at the pilot scale.
Concurrent with solar drying optimization research, significant strides were also made towards overall commercial scale-up, with key milestone achievements being:
1) Securing approval from the City of Kigali to build a demonstration plant, with expectation of expanding to commercial scale.
2) Fundraising the resources needed to construct and operate the demonstration plant for two years.
3) Successfully engaging with CIMERWA Cement Company as a local customer, receiving their positive feedback on the fuel performance and securing repeat sales.
Based on the positive results to date, Pivot is applying for a Transition To Scale grant to support scale-up of the initiative.