Sanergy is recycling human waste to increase the hygiene and sanitation in the slums and to create eco-friendly fertiliser and animal feed.

Sanergy is based on a really interesting concept, recycling human waste to create two products: fertilizer and animal feed. The start-up company is scaling up to a full size production facility that will boost its throughput from 30 tonnes of waste processed per month to 300 tonnes. The waste comes from the slums. In slums, there are a huge number of people living in a very small area, there are no sewer facilities and so there’s just nowhere for the poop to go. Sanergy have developed an innovative solution.

Sanergy have developed a hygienic toilet concept and have installed them across slums in Nairobi. The facilities are easy to clean and remove the waste – this has created lots of jobs and a regular income for people in the slums. The waste is taken to the treatment plant.

Black Soldier Fly larvae are added to the mix. They are hatched in a specially designed colony facility, which gives them the perfect conditions to quickly develop into tiny eating machines. Then the maggots are added to the waste in the processing facility. Over about 9 days they gain over 100 times their original body weight and they munch through all the poop and break it down ready to be composted. The maggots are then sifted out, killed, sterilised and dried out before being packaged for animal feed. The remaining waste is transferred into the composting stage. The decomposition would normally take 6-9 months but after the soldier flies have assisted the process, it’s cut down to 3-5 months.

The urban slums have an indescribable problem in dealing with poop. There are so many people in a really small space. There are no sewers, so the waste has to be contained in a pit, known as a pit latrine (if it’s contained at all).

Even toilets that were created with space around them suddenly have absolutely no way to reach them to empty out the pits with the vehicles which are designed to “exhaust” the pits when they are full. The toilets must be emptied by hand and then the waste is usually dumped into a very unsanitary location either inside or outside the slum, but usually this leads to contamination of a water source somewhere.

A diagram showing where the human waste in Nairobi goes, and how much of it is safely disposed of is actually fairly horrifying. Sanergy are trying to significantly improve the statistics on what percentage of waste is treated to make it safe. They have a non-profit arm called Fresh Life which installs specially designed sanitary toilets into slums – the waste is extracted from the toilets daily and this waste is input into the Sanergy factory process to create animal food and fertiliser.

Read more about Sanergy here.