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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Philip Williams

Creating demand for Resilient Resource Recovery and Reuse in Developing Countries

Philip Williams

Creating demand for Resilient Resource Recovery and Reuse in Developing Countries

Providing effective resilient sanitation services in developing countries is a growing problem, with over 2.6 billion people lacking adequate sanitation in 2008, and this figure being projected to increase further by 2015.

Resource recovery and re-use is not a new concept. Indeed, in a very broad sense the recovery and re-use of human waste has been practiced over millennia by almost all cultures. Modern end-of-pipe systems came about in the 19th century to deliver an emergency solution to social health crisis associated with rapid urbanisation, and for 150 years engineers have continued to try and develop this emergency solution. In these systems, nutrients, as well as the energy contained in human excreta are unsustainably eliminated using high technical and energy inputs from wastewater treatment plants or simply lost in latrines which can further cause groundwater contamination.

Resource recovery and re-use seeks to move the focus away from waste that needs disposal, toward producing a valuable resource that can benefit farmers, create jobs and generate funds to improve sanitation, therefore making its application resilient. Despite the obvious benefits that wide scale resource recovery and re-use implementation could bring to the developing world, there is still a large ‘grey area’ lacking significant research. This is not necessarily in the technology itself, but rather systems level research into why resource recovery hasn’t been more widely endorsed by developing countries.

The aim of this report is to undertake a holistic and comprehensive review of resource recovery and re-use and it’s interconnections at a systems level using literature review and case studies. This then enables a hypothesis to be drawn for an example business model that creates ‘multi stakeholder’ demand for this sanitation technology in the developing world.

In this talk I will discuss the history of resource recovery and re-use, its implications on society and wider interconnecting issues such as ‘Peak Phosphorus’. In addition, I will discuss my research on the significance that governance structures have on implementing resource recovery and re-use at a national level.