UKZN and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation take waste research to another level
The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s pollution research group has received a $400 000 donation (R2.8 million) from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund an initiative by the group to take toilet technology and sanitation to new heights.
Led by international expert and academic Professor Chris Buckley, the aim is to design a toilet system that will lead to the safe disposal of waste water in poor communities.
The announcement was made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the AfricaSan conference in Rwanda on Tuesday.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal was one of eight institutions chosen to take part in the “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge, and the only university in Africa. The pollution research group will work closely alongside local companies as well as actual ablution blocks in informal settlements in Durban.
Currently the urine-diversion toilets will be changed and developed to include three streams of waste (urine, faeces and wash water).
The solid waste and bulk objects (toilet paper and diapers) will be processed to ultimately produce ash for fertiliser, flue gases and steam for water recovery, and energy for heating the drier and combustor which are part of the process.
The eThekwini Water and Sanitation department will provide logistical support and access to community ablution blocks. “The extensive experience of the local eThekwini Municipality in the management of community ablution blocks will inform the design and economic feasibility of the system,” said Buckley.
The research group will also be working with other organisations such as the Water Research Commission of South Africa, Hering South Africa,Partners in Development, Envirosan and Energy Engineering International.
Ten UKZN staff in the chemical engineering field will be involved along with chemical engineering students who will either participate through their student projects or as general assistants.