Poop in emerging economies: flush it or cook it?

  • A major health concern in developing countries is the lack of proper sanitation. 1.4 million children die each year from diseases related to faecal matter.
  • However, installing flushable toilets around the world isn’t the answer. Western toilets use 3.5 gallons of water for each flush. If everyone on the planet flushed just once, we’d use 24.5 billion gallons a day. Couple that with the challenge of a rapidly increasing population, and we may experience difficulties in sustaining western sewerage systems.
  • We need to find news ways of safely disposing of waste – in emerging and existing economies alike. However, the lack of current infrastructure in emerging economies means there is an opportunity to get it right first time, and build infrastructures that can deal with waste safely and responsibly.
  • Current options which negate or reduce water pressure might include:
        • microwaves which turn waste into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which can then be used for energy generation
        • turning waste into bio-charcoal
        • using solar panels to covert the waste into hydrogen for fuel cells

An international effort is required to continue research into new toilet designs, encourage emerging economies to incorporate the designs into new infrastructure, and for the developed world to begin replacing our unsustainable systems. The issue presents a market opportunity for the UK economy, an opportunity to generate green energy, and the ability to reduce sanitation problems overseas. Failing to do so could lead to UK water shortage and international tensions over water scarcity.

For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/ca7slks

About Hayley Shaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager at Cranfield University's Centre for Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF). Sharing the latest news from Cranfield, and insights from across the industry. All things risk, environment, and the future.
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