4. Link to city-wide waste management

Summary

Another critical economic consideration for CBS businesses is what ultimately happens to the waste — i.e., whether it’s stored and safely decomposed, or somehow processed and reused. In the case of storage, the CBS model is highly dependent on the availability of viable facilities — inevitably requiring high capital outlay to construct — at low or no cost to the business — and of sufficient space to expand those facilities to absorb waste from future business growth. In the case of reuse, it depends on the economic viability of parallel systems for “closing the loop” — for example, converting human waste into fertilizer or combining it with other waste to generate solid biofuel.

Closing the loop requires consideration of city-scale solutions that incorporate other existing waste streams (e.g., wastewater, septage etc.) and a number of CBS organizations are already vigorously pursuing the idea of waste-to-resource processing. Standalone businesses are also emerging, purpose-built to turn human and agricultural waste into commercially valuable products. Some, such as BioCycle in South Africa — which uses human waste as a partial feedstock for black soldier fly larvae that can be turned into a high-protein animal feed — are beginning to test these approaches at scale.

Part of Solution

  • Insights for advancing container based sanitation (CBS) businesses

  • Additional Information

    At the time of writing, it has not been determined whether waste processing can generate better than cost-recovery revenues. In circumstances where there is a sufficiently large and accessible market for a given processed product, the answer is probably that it can. It is certainly worth exploring possibilities for strategic partnerships between CBS and waste-to-resource businesses.

    However, given the challenges already facing CBS businesses to demonstrate financial viability and growth potential, attempting to incorporate waste-to-resource processing into an existing CBS business arguably adds unnecessary further complexity at this stage. In any event, a strong understanding of each market’s affinity for different potential treatment by-products is crucial. It is therefore important that CBS businesses engage with sanitation authorities, waste-to-resource businesses and investors to help create partnerships that allow for and incorporate CBS waste streams.

    Resources

    Organisations Involved