The power of rubbish

New Thrive blog post on turning the burden of sanitation services into a profit using business thinking.

Making money from waste

Recently, some crazy scientists in Bristol, UK have discovered how to charge their smartphones with their own pee. By using micro-organisms which feed off their urine and generate electrons as a by-product, they have managed to produce enough electricity to charge a phone or power some lights.

Composting in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
Composting in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

Although we can question the utility of this technology, considering the very small amount of energy produced, there may still be method to these scientists’ “madness”. People generate millions of tons of waste every day, and with rapid urbanization and population growth, this will only increase. Urban areas already account for 75% of the world’s natural resource consumption and produce 50% of global waste. In most countries, especially low- and middle-income nations, the waste management systems currently used to collect, process and recycle this waste are insufficient and cannot meet demand. Untreated rubbish is already having terrible effects on the environment and human health, and if not properly contained, could lead to a global disaster with people literally drowning in their own garbage.

The global community is realizing the urgency of this problem, with many of the Sustainable Development Goals supporting waste and water reuse. The upcoming World Water Week in Stockholm will also focus on “Water and waste: reduce and reuse.” Technologies and approaches that productively reuse urine or other waste will be crucial in determining our capacity to achieve sustainable growth in the future.

Read the full blog post on the WLE Thrive Blog.

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