Compress and Digest. The the Mismanagement of Waste Essay Example

One of today’s most concerning problems, globally, is the mismanagement of waste. People around the world are taught flush-and-forget, without an inkling to what they are actually contributing. Many countries around the world do not have an adequate disposal technique, which can lead to build up in areas and harrowing chances for disease contraction. Luckily, the sanitation company Loowatt has taken the initiative to address this looming epidemic. With Loowatt’s innovative drive, a new toilet model has been constructed to provide an eco-friendly option of disposal with the absence of a flush. In comparison to porta-potties, the Loowatt toilet far exceeds expectations in build as well as benefit. Loowatt’s revolutionizing toilet has the potential to provide a green alternative to porta-potties, benefit the environment, and make a difference in communities around the world.

Loowatt is a UK-based company that prides itself on its effort to provide a renewable and assessable form of energy to communities. Founded by Virginia Gardiner, now CEO of Loowatt, in 2010, the company has grown substantially since its origin at London’s Royal College of Art. The ball continued to roll as Gardiner was award the Gates grant in the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge(Alter). After this recognition, more funding followed from Innovate UK, the GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities Program, and more recently, the RELX Group Environmental Challenge award. Since then, Loowatt has been able to provide sanitation that goes beyond building toilets. Through methods of safe collection, transport, and treatment of fecal sludge, Loowatt has made leaps and bounds when it comes to recycling human waste. Toilets and pre-treatment technology have been tested to create “efficient service that meet the standards of governments and utilities and can be scaled to address the sanitation challenges of growing urban centers"(Loowatt). With this distinction, Loowatt looks to expand its reach and catch the attention of communities who want or need the benefits of the toilet system.

With the simply mechanics of the Loowatt toilet, life becomes simpler. Upon flushing, instead of water, the toilet carries a biodegradable film that envelopes the human waste and then stores it within a large cartridge beneath the unit. From there, Loowatt employees transport these containers to biodigester locations where the waste is biodegraded anaerobically. The anaerobic process depletes the waste of oxygen and speeds up the decomposing process. From this process, gases are emitted (primarily methane), which then can be routed to power several applications. One interesting method that is also being implemented is the transport of biogas into a gas generator. Then, electricity can be generated and supplied to surrounding communities and/or businesses. Then once the extent of the waste has fermented and decomposed, the solid matter can be used towards composting and fertilizer (Source). The application of these waste products ensures a closed loop system that will continue to cycle as long as input, waste, is provided and processed (Ltd). With this design, waste is no longer syphoned from horrid latrines and into areas where contamination is possible. Instead, containment is a priority which ensures the safety of all and solidifies the continuation of the green cycle.

Green energy is not the only benefit to Loowatt’s design, as it provides a sanitary area for waste disposal as well as conserving the water resources of a community. The company also claims that its technology also eliminates pungent odors and expensive mess when compared to pit latrines. Owners of the toilets can arrange to have the storage cartridges emptied weekly or more often depending on the frequency of use, and they can also request service via text message (Kaye).Compared to Loowatt’s construction, installation, and disposal, building-designated waste repositories like latrines doesn’t make waste disappear. In fact, other methods have been known to provide a source for disease. Where space is abundant, people can simply close off a full latrine and dig another hole. However, when the opposite is true, like in crowded Antananarivo, Madagascar, or any city for that matter, families are forced to share latrines. Then once it is full, someone must empty it. In Madagascar, it is usually men equipped with buckets (Zeldovich). With this disposal method, there is always a chance for contamination and also a definite safety hazard for those interacting with the waste in any form. Luckily, Gardiner had taken this into account when developing the Loowatt. Technology like the this could greatly benefit other communities such as the Dalits of India. Indian women, often of the lowest caste, are tasked with emptying the shit pits in their communities. They do so by scooping the shit into woven baskets, which they carry away on their heads. This role is taught to their young daughters to do as well. The danger is the pathogens that thrive within this fermenting shit. Pathogens responsible for hepatitis A and B, Cholera, campylobacter, dysentery, and salmonella and all infect the immune systems of the Dalits. Plus, there are even intestinal worms that can be contracted without ingestion. Instead they are inhaled from the air!(Zeldovich). Loowatt can reduce this harmful exposure and possibly save many Dalits and Madagascan workers from the disease ridden labor.

With its absence of water, there is virtually no mess or risk of infection and contamination. The design of the Loowatt will also aid in reducing the presence of waterborne illnesses in developing areas. When fecal matter corrupts drinking water, it can spreads ailments such as, Cholera, dysentery and even polio. According to the World Health Organization, about 842,000 people in low- and middle-income countries die every year from poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even conducted test that concluded that an estimate of 2,195 children die each day from diarrhea related illnesses (Diarrhea).This statistic is concerning as it makes up for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. This continual problem, however, has a potential new solution that will hopefully decrease the occurrence of these fatal cases: Loowatt.

This green toilet is aiding across of the globe; however, like all innovative technologies, there are downfalls to Loowatt’s system. One downside of accommodating with Loowatt, is that all of the toilets depend on servicing processing, inputs, and outputs.The Loowatt setup isn’t free, and residents pay about £12 or $13.66 USD as a deposit for a toilet (which remains Loowatt’s property). On top of that, service or the toilet remains at around £3 or $3.41 USD. Unfortunately for Madagascarian residents, this price is out of range. Many sustain themselves off of just £1 a day ($1.14USD). For them, this is not a cheap alternative which may be the reason for some hesitation. (Zeldovich). However, through pooling money and renting out the Loowatts, many residents find a source of income as well as a source of energy. As long as there are people using the toilet (input), there will always be a green output, allowing the beneficial cycle to continue.

Another option for communities around the world could be the inclusion of porta-potties. While they do provide a convenient service and conserve more water than a flushing toilet, Loowatt still remains unmatched. Standard porta-potties follow a similar structure as the Loowatt, containing a waste reservoir that stores human waste directly below the toilet seat. These reservoirs have the option of holding anywhere from 60 to 250 gallons of waste(Gotügo). If put into perspective, that is far less than the 1.6 to 7 gallons of water that is wasted with every flush of a watered toilet(Toilets). Once a porta-potty is placed, it is then filled with chemicals designed to reduce odors and disinfect waste. Some of the most common chemicals used in a holding tank are bromine, formaldehyde, and glutaraldehyde (Roos). The chemicals contained in standard porta-potties cannot completely disinfect human waste and must receive addition cleansing before being discarded. Additionally, these chemicals are highly toxic to both humans and other wildlife. Thankfully, many states are taking a step in the greener direction as they have outlawed the use of formaldehyde because of its reputation for eliminating bacterial communities (Roos). Depending on the method of disposal and the characteristics of the waste, some chemicals residue may pollute the soil as well as the surrounding wildlife. For these reason, the contents of a porta potty cannot be released directly into groundwater and must be processed properly. In most scenarios, when the reservoir is full, the toilet is serviced by a sanitation company. Contents of the reservoir are pumped into a local wastewater system using transport tankers. However, sending the waste from the porta-potties to a wastewater system unfortunately raises some environmental concerns. Sewage treatment facilities generally consume significant amounts of resources, including electricity and clean water. Likewise, trucks and equipment used to pump waste out of standard porta potties use fossil fuels for power and give off harmful emissions (Gotügo). This problem almost minimizes the positive impact that porta-potties actually have. Conservation is occurring with the use of porta-potties; however, the techniques and processes that keep them functional are harmful. From the facility, the waste is generally put into a type of evaporation pond where the water and other liquids can evaporate from the waste. Then, the solid portion may be dumped into a landfill or, in some countries, recycled into fertilizer. All in all, the porta-potty is a great alternative to traditional water-using toilets; however, some of the chemicals used, methods practiced, and resources wasted harmed more than they helped. Luckily, Gardiner’s idea sparked an invention that has aided communities since its beginning.

The first location where Loowatt staked its claim was just west of Mozambique on the island of Madagascar. After publishing an online video, Loowatt’s founder, Victoria Gardiner was approached with a business opportunity. A Canadian expatriate living in Madagascar learned about Gardiner’s project and after discussion he became Loowatt’s first investor. Two years after her start (2010-2012) Gardiner had final expedited her idea. This deal was the primary reason for Loowatt’s launch of its first single-toilet pilot and a small waste-processing facility inside of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo (Zeldovich). From this small station, a revolution would grow. Lina Zeldovich confirmed by stating, “In many places building a flushing toilet system, as we know it, is nearly impossible. Some places simply don’t have enough water. Some have too much, which complicates water treatment processes because of floods and overflows. Others don’t have the means to build the water-based infrastructure”(Alter). This dilemma is entirely true for many Madagascan communities as conditions may vary. In some cases, such as in the capital, groundwater is so abundant that many Antananarivo residents grow rice in their yards. However, when torrential rain storms hit, flooding occurs. Waste from latrines rises and floats into the yards, houses, shops and streets, posing a major health risk. Luckily, Loowatt has provided a solution. Currently, Loowatt has recorded around 100 families in the country’s capital, Antananarivo, who subscribe to its system and service. This does not account for the sharing and renting of the Loowatt stands that generally happens amongst neighbors and families. With all of this input, Loowatt has not only been able to give back with generated electricity and biogas, but also fertilizer. Lina Zeldovich, of Quartz news outlet, estimated that, “the waste deposited by the approximate 800 people each month creates six tons of fertilizer” and just at around $4 a month (Kaye). Each toilet that is being put in place will drastically reduce the amount of waste on the public streets and provide preventative measure against the spread of disease. With this foundation, Loowatt has the chance to change the lives of many Madagascans and possibly expand to other shores as well.

Loowatt is working on introducing the concept to other countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. In the UK, Loowatt toilets are already being booked for festivals and outdoor events, generating good revenue and a positive stigma around the brand. While it’s unlikely that every Western toilet will eventually have a biodigester attached to its bottom, change and knowledge are still readily available for willing contributors. Perhaps some places will be able to have a system where fecal waste collection would feed the production of urban farms. The push to reinvent our waste processing is happening worldwide, with universities and startups working on alternative approaches, just as Virginia Gardener had. It is now up to each person to decide to continue the harmful process of flush-and-forget and instead join the movement for compress-and-digest.


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