A truck-full of unwanted human waste will soon be turned into fuel.
Trucks bring the material to a social enterprise called Sanivation based in Naivasha,100 kilometres from Nairobi.
It might seem like an unlikely source for cooking meals and heating homes, but this unpleasant mixture will be treated and turned into profita ble briquettes.
“Initially, it was very hard for us to scale-up as we used to make a home based product. People used to think that it smelling a lot but that wasn’t the case because we used to treat the poop very well to make the product and people would even use it for barbecue,” explains Paul Manda, factory manager at Sanivation.
The raw material is treated through heating at high temperatures to kill the bacteria and then is mixed with sawdust to make the briquettes.
The product has become more popular than they expected.
“So, when we decided to think of another product we thought of the sawdust briquettes, and of course, it is also a combination of agricultural and of course human waste. This product (was) actually picked up the market much quicker than we thought. So, we are currently selling more than 120 tons and we cannot even meet the market demand,” says Manda.
Taking human waste out of the wider environment and turning it into fuel has environmental benefits.
According to charity Water.org,41 percent of Kenyans lack access to basic sanitation solutions.
According to dateafrom WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP), it is estimated 8.5 percent of the population practiced open defecation in 2020.
“The use of this fuel is very important to the environment in the fact that for each tonne that we are going to use we are saving thirty-three trees. Remember we are also taking a useless product that people used to just throw away, and maybe it was unsafely managed,” says Manda.
Sanivation initially targeted households as potential customers.
But after low takeup, they switched to supplying factories and businesses like Larmona flower farm.
They cook food on site for their employees and used to use charcoal and firewood.
But the briquettes are cheaper and manager Mary Wangui says her staff have noticed other benefits.
‘We switched to briquettes which are environmentally friendly because they do not produce smoke compared to the normal charcoal and the firewood. Also it has another advantage that it is not affecting our employees in the canteen medical-wise because the smoke affects the health of the employees but with briquettes we do not have those chances at the moment,” she explains.
“We have other advantages on the tear and wear of cooking pots whereby we used to buy cooking pots several times but at the moment they are taking long. Also if you compare from the normal charcoal and from briquettes, the heat from the briquettes takes long that means we use less compared to what we used to use there earlier,” she adds.
According to Kenya Forest Service, charcoal provides 82 percent of the urban population and 34 percent of rural households with energy.
“The briquettes are a good alternative to charcoal and wood and especially they are made from mostly waste material so they reduce on the trees that are being cut,” explains Nickson Otieno, a sustainability expert and CEO at Niko Green.
“Number two, if well made, they burn efficiently so they release less emissions of bad air, we call it carbon. So that has a very good health impact but also environmental impact compared to how the charcoal or the wood burns. Which is not efficient.”
Through the initiative, the company has been able to create jobs, as well as convince established organisations to opt for an environmentally friendly source of energy.