The waste problem today is a problem of perception. Waste should not be thought of as waste, but rather as an unused resource. UEnergy is a project to research business models that transform wastes into valuable products. This blog keeps track of ideas and epiphanies on the way to starting such a social enterprise.
Today, 2.6 billion people will defecate in rivers, on beaches, behind bushes, etc because 2.6 billion people in the world do not have so much as a hole in the ground to call a toilet. It’s shocking and it is the cause of many problems. An estimated 1.8 million children die each year from diseases passed through contact with another person’s feces—that is far more than the number of violent deaths each year. These deaths would be a avoided if only proper sanitation existed.
I believe the barrier to providing proper sanitation can be solved through responsible business. People are willing to pay to use proper toilets but business models are slow to meet this demand. If proper sanitation could be proven to be a profitable enterprise, then capitalism would solve the problem in no time. I have seen enough waste treatment plants in the United States to know that government alone cannot solve this problem in a timely or efficient manner.
Towards this end, my goal is to show that treatment of human waste treatment can be profitable by establishing a company and making it profitable. But before I can do so, there is much to learn. I am looking to establish the company in Africa because the demand is high and the lower level of infrastructure compared to the United States provides a unique opportunity to get sanitation right the first time.
In this blog I hope to share my experiences and personal research on sanitation and anaerobic digestion in particular. Some posts will be technical, some will be cultural, some will seem to be unrelated to waste management altogether. But I believe, that there are no unrelated topics. Every experience is valuable for creating an appropriate technology.
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Brown University 2010, Biomedical Engineering ScB
Kimberton Waldorf School 2006