Rethinking toilets and waste

5 October 2018

Treating human waste using little water and energy, and recovering the resources contained in faeces and urine, is the focus of intense effort at Scion.

Engineers Daniel Gapes and Suren Wijeyekoon talk on Radio NZ about how their work and ambitions to bring cheap, efficient waste treatment to the 2.3 billion people worldwide who lack safe sanitation.

The process involves breaking down waste and killing pathogens in what is basically a ‘pressure cooker”. The treatment converts nitrogen to ammonia, a lot of the organic material to acetic acid (vinegar) and phosphorus can be recovered as ash.

The acetic acid can be used as a food source for bacteria that produce useful compounds such as ethanol or bioplastics. Read more about making plastic from poo.