Young Entrepreneurs Awards Category Winner: Andrew Foote
Country of impact: Kenya
A social enterprise transforming human waste into a clean, affordable fuel, helping to keep communities healthy.
In Kenya, 95% of solid human waste is released into the environment untreated. This is a key driver of diarrhoeal diseases – the leading cause of death in children under five years old. Unfortunately, current solutions for faecal sludge management are often too expensive and difficult for local authorities to manage.
Two problems make an enterprise
At the same time, there’s also a huge need for affordable, clean biomass fuel. Andrew Foote and co-founder Emily Woods – engineers turned entrepreneurs – asked: ‘What if one of these challenges was the answer to the other?’
Sanivation partners with local authorities in Kenya to scale waste processing services and transform faeces into a charcoal substitute. Specifically, they take faecal sludge, from their own toilets and those of others, treat it with solar thermal energy and combine it with other waste streams to make charcoal briquettes. These briquettes burn longer and produce only one-third of the carbon emissions of traditional briquettes.
The benefits are already being felt. Take Margaret and her family. In the past, they had always had to choose between going to the toilet in an unsafe open field, an unhygienic shared pit latrine, or using a bag (and throwing it into the street). Now Sanivation has installed a toilet in her home, her family has a much safer and healthier choice. In addition, the community around Margaret benefits by Sanivation ensuring the human waste is safely managed and transformed into a fuel the offsets deforestation.
Safety, dignity and health
To date, Sanivation has provided sanitation services for over 2,500 people in communities and refugee camps. They’ve treated 11 tonnes of human waste in their two factories and sold over 70 tonnes of briquettes, saving 6,610 trees in the process. And they’re employing over 40 people in the local area.
The team is partnering with local governments to operate full-scale municipal waste processing factories and plan to serve at least 25,000 people per factory by 2020. With an estimated 4.5 billion people living in places where waste is not safely managed, Andrew and the team see huge potential for growth.