Putting a value on human waste

July 31st, 2014

Internal knowledge sharing is vital in our organisation.  It is a struggle to keep up with the amazing variety of different work Practical Action is doing all over the world.

Yesterday was particularly illuminating.  A video conference in the morning covered the potential of showcasing our work using the global mapping tools on Google Earth. And at lunchtime we discussed private enterprise in the faecal sludge market.

In the city of Faridpur in Bangladesh, the sewerage system reaches very few of the cities’ 30,000 households.  And there is no allocated place to dump waste.   Most families have pit latrines that are emptied by enterprising individuals who transport the waste by bicycle and dump it wherever they can.  This often means in the local river – not a good idea for public health.

Practical Action Consulting have been carrying out a study, funded by the Gates Foundation, is to see whether this human waste when converted into compost can become a marketable commodity.

The municipality of Faridpur plan to build a treatment plant to process the waste and the sweepers who empty the latrines have indicated that they are happy to deliver to the new site, if they are provided with motor bikes as the site is several miles outside the city.

Projected waste treatment site

Projected waste treatment site

There are three big challenges

  1. Relationships between the private sweepers and the municipality are difficult and there is also some conflict between Hindu and Muslims organisations of sweepers
  2. Most households do not have safe or adequate septic tanks
  3. Rebranding faecal sludge as an acceptable fertiliser which fetches sustainable price in the market

Our staff in Bangladesh are developing a business proposal to test whether or not this is a viable proposition.  Any dragons out there keen to invest?

4 responses to “Putting a value on human waste”

  1. Nowroz Farhan Says:

    Fecal sludge management is becoming a very big concern for Bangladesh. I’m happy to see big names like Practical Action is taking initiatives to test new form of fecal sludge management. I think it’s remarkable how on site sanitation can make a huge impact in this field. I would love to be a part of it if i can
    Good luck to Practical Action.

  2. Amanda Ross Says:

    Thank you for your interest. This is a major issue which needs to be address in fast growing urban settlements worldwide. We hope that this market based approach will deliver a sustainable solution that can be replicated elsewhere by other organisations.

  3. Avril Sime Says:

    Very interested in your work in Bangladesh with sweepers. Would like to raise funds specifically for this. Already support a number of charities but considering moving funding so that we (my husband and I) can see results …e.g. As supporters of World Visionand Compassion we support two boys and their families…is there any way we can support say two families or more i.e. Gathering funds to supply them with the equipment they need please advise the best way to do this so that the funding is used to benefit as many as possible..i.e. £100 would supply 4 people with safety clothing?

  4. Amanda Ross Says:

    Hi Avril,
    Delighted that you’re interested in this work. Practical Action doesn’t run a sponsorship scheme that supports individual families. The funds we raise support the project as a whole and the clothing/equipment in this project is one small element of a much larger project, therefore we are unable to be specific about exactly where an individual donation has been spent. I hope that you still feel able to support our work in a more general way. If you sign up for our e-newsletter http://practicalaction.org/get-our-e-newsletter you can keep in touch with how your donations are spent on a regular basis.
    best wishes,

Leave a reply