UCT team unleash novel toilet innovation

From left are, Dr Dyllon Randall, Deigo Guglielmi, Ong Zhi Siong, Shima Holder and Diego Pulido.

A UCT lecturer and his team have won an international sustainability competition with their toilet hub that converts urine and faeces into fertilisers and compost.

Dr Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer in water quality in the department of civil engineering, and his multi-national team won the global sustainability prize at Unleash 2018, an innovation festival held in Singapore recently, with their SaniHive prototype. Inspired by the structure of a honeycomb, it maximises space.

The toilet hub is not connected to a conventional sewage network, needs no electricity and can
be scaled up by increasing the number of toilet hubs, using the profits made from the waste recycling.

“It contains a urine-treatment process as well as a faeces-collection system for eventual composting. It’s different to current toilets in this area because it separates the urine and faeces within the
toilet while using no water,” Dr Randall said.

Phosphorous recovery from urine for fertiliser is one example of this. SaniHive, derived from sani for “sanitation” and hive from the “beehive” inspiration, beat 995 other contestants and 169 other solutions.

“The innovation would create employment, as local people could transport the waste to mini treatment plants where high-end products could be created,” said Dr Randall.

Professor Pilate Moyo, head of the civil engineering department, said it is was rewarding to see one of their young researchers being recognised for their innovative work.

“As a department, we value innovation. We are extremely proud of Dyllon and the pioneering work he is doing in wastewater.”

Unleash 2018 is a global innovation lab that brings together 1000 top young minds from 100 countries to create solutions to achieve UN sustainable development goals for food, water, health, education, energy, urban sustainability and responsible supply chains.

Urbanslumcommunities need sustainable sanitation that meets the needs of high population density, because the current temporary portable toilets are largely inaccessible due to space constraints. So many people often share a few toilets, leading to poor sanitary conditions.

With projections of there being close to one billion urban slum dwellers worldwide by 2030, Dr Randall believes sanitation innovations will play a big part in ensuring clean water and sanitation – and in creating sustainable cities and healthy citizens.

“But it doesn’t have to be an urban slum,” he adds. “You can use the same methodology in richer suburbs, where you create an integrated, decentralised system with a mini treatment plant in the neighbourhood. The challenge would be to separate the waste.”

Dr Randall and his group hope to pursue the SaniHive innovation, and plan to approach funders to help commercialise this technology.

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