SOIL’s Summer Visits to Container Based Sanitation Practitioners

Creating durable, lasting solutions to the sanitation crisis isn’t easy, which is why SOIL is fortunate to be working together with the Container-Based Sanitation Alliance (CBSA). The CBSA is a coalition of service providers around the world working together to extend our collective impact – getting more toilets to more families through knowledge-sharing, partnerships, research, and other collaborative initiatives. SOIL is proud to be one of the six founding members of the alliance.

CBSA member organizations have been sharing lessons and best practices on everything from toilet design to data management for years, but earlier this summer a few SOIL staff had the chance to visit some of our partners and see their operations firsthand.

Learn more about CBSA and Container Based Sanitation technologies here.

Visiting Clean Team and Safi Sana in Ghana

A Note from SOIL’s System Director Erica Lloyd

I had the opportunity to visit Clean Team in Kumasi, Ghana, where they are serving about 1,650 families with cute blue and white toilets and twice-weekly collection service. When we caught up with a collection team at 6:30 on a grey morning, it was clear they had been hard at work for quite some time, though that certainly didn’t mean they were slowing down. I was nearly jogging to try to keep up with the two collectors as they efficiently serviced households – scanning a QR code on the customer’s wall, sealing and removing the waste container from the toilet, replacing it with a clean empty container, and moving to the next home in a matter of seconds!

Besides being impressed by the efficiency of Clean Team’s collection service, I picked up a lot of other interesting tips that I hope will be able to help SOIL as we continue to refine our model in Haiti, like the secret ingredient in their container washing system (powdered neem leaves) that keeps their containers smelling so fresh! I also got to speak with members of the customer service team, who explained how they got their customers on board with using mobile money to pay their bills, going from 0% to 97% of payments made with mobile money in just one year! As this is currently one of SOIL’s strategic objectives, I was keen to learn as much I could from their experience.

I left Kumasi with pages of notes about what I had seen and learned, and headed back to Accra to visit Safi Sana, a waste-to-resource social enterprise. While they don’t do container-based toilets, they do run an incredibly impressive waste treatment site, which processes all kinds of organic waste including poop, food waste, and even – as I witnessed during my visit – spoiled milk from a local candy factory. The waste is fed into an enormous anaerobic digester, where it produces gas for a generator that produces electrical power to feed into the grid. The solids are eventually dried and co-composted with additional market waste to produce an organic fertilizer, and the wastewater is fed into treatment ponds. They’re treating about 20 tons of waste per day, and although no more than 50% is made up of poop, it was really interesting to see a very different waste-to-resource operation.

Visiting Sanergy and Sanivation in Kenya

A Note from SOIL’s Composting Director Job Etienne and Advisor Julie Jeliazovski

Earlier this summer, my colleague Job and I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya to visit two CBSA members,  Sanivation and Sanergy. It was a great way for us to exchange on waste treatment processes and look for ways to continue to improve SOIL’s systems in Haiti.

The enterprise we visited first, Sanergy, services nearly 1,700 toilets across Nairobi’s informal settlements, collecting waste daily and treating it in two different ways. First, they produce organic fertilizer by co-composting toilet waste with agricultural waste from the area. There are many different ways to transform poop into compost, so comparing their processes to SOIL’s was quite illuminating. The other way Sanergy treats waste is by transforming it into black soldier fly larvae. How do they do it? The flies feed on the waste during their larval stage and then reproduce without eating during the adult phase. After feeding on the waste for days, the larvae are sanitized and sold as animal feed to farms. Seeing this was definitely the highlight of our tour!

After a great first day in Kenya’s capital city, we traveled north towards Sanivation. It was quite the sight, seeing zebras and giraffes peacefully grazing, instead of the goats and pigs we’re so used to seeing in Haiti! Sanivation operates a household toilet service very similar to SOIL’s EkoLakay in Naivasha. Just like in Haiti, Kenyan families rely heavily on charcoal for cooking. As a result, Sanivation developed an innovative process that allows them to recycle charcoal dust and agricultural waste, using treated poop as a binder to produce fuel briquettes. Using this process, they create a product that burns longer than regular charcoal so it not only helps the environment, but also helps families spend less money on fuel. For every ton of fuel used, they’re saving 88 trees! How cool is that?

Speaking of cool, we’ll leave you with a picture of team SOIL and a beautiful giraffe at a conservation center we had the opportunity to visit. Many thanks to our friends in the CBSA for a wonderful trip!

To learn more about the growing momentum for container-based sanitation solutions, and why they are critical in the fight to achieve citywide sanitation, don’t miss this recent report from the World Water Council.

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