November 19 is World Toilet Day, a UN-sanctioned global day to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring access to safe and hygienic sanitation for everyone, forever.
On November 19, 2011, Sanergy launched its first Fresh Life Toilet in Nairobi’s Mukuru slum. This year, they will be celebrating their five-year anniversary with a network of over 800 Fresh Life Toilets serving 40,000 people in 11 informal settlements across Nairobi. However, this is only part of their commitment to improving urban sanitation: hygienic toilets that contain waste are only one part of the safe sanitation value chain. The rest of the value chain: collection, removal, treatment, and conversion are equally important to ensuring the health and prosperity of communities around the world.
Every day, Sanergy safely and professionally removes more than 11 tons of waste from the communities they serve, all of which they treat and convert into usable end-products. As they look to scale their network, they’re focused on developing a cost-effective and replicable model for urban sanitation provision.
One of the main problems with current sanitation models lies in how they are paid for. Most emerging cities have limited water and sanitation budgets, and they are unable to cover the cost of building, running, and maintaining expensive sewerage infrastructure. In Dakar, for example, running and maintaining the sewerage system costs US$57 per person per year; compare that to Kenya’s commitment to raise sanitation spending to US$12 per person per year by 2030 (current levels are around US$3 per person per year).
Sanergy is working to develop a new sanitation funding paradigm in three ways:
- Lowering the overall cost of sanitation delivery through non-sewered solutions, like the Fresh Life Toilet;
- Increasing participatory financing by the market (residents investing in sanitation solutions; farmers investing in reuse products) by expanding their offerings to reach customer segments they’re not currently serving; and
- Engaging the government to develop a supportive ecosystem for non-sewered sanitation solutions.
Currently, the Fresh Life Toilet network costs US$23 per person per year, and Sanergy is working to improve the efficiency of their collection process to lower that cost even further. In addition, because of the participatory nature of their model, about half that cost is covered by users (franchisees who purchase the toilets) and reusers (farmers and feed millers who buy the waste-derived end-products).
By decreasing the overall cost and by further incentivizing beneficiaries to invest in these solutions for themselves, Sanergy is developing an attractive alternative to sewers that can be scaled through partnerships with growing municipalities.
On World Toilet Day, don’t only consider the 2.4 billion people who lack access to clean toilets; think about the 4.1 billion people living in communities with broken sanitation value chains. It is clear that sewers are not a universal solution, so it’s time to develop alternative models that can serve these burgeoning communities.
Sanergy is working on innovative products and services, and they would like to learn from you. Please reach out if you would like to discuss novel ways to address the growing urban sanitation crisis.