Alternative sanitation spe- cialists Enviro Options has been awarded a two-year tender by the City of Cape Town to provide informal settlements with a dry sanitation system. This system does not use water or electricity, is odourless and is designed with the user’s health, as well as respectability, in mind, says Enviro Options MD Mark la Trobe.
Enviro Options has installed the first series of Enviro Loo dry sanitation units for the City of Cape Town. The unit is designed to separate solid and liquid waste as it enters the system. The separate waste is exposed to continuous airflows that dry it. Air is drawn in through the toilet bowl and inlet pipes and out at the top of the vent pipe. The system uses wind and heat to maintain airflows only into the bottom and out the top of the system, making it odourless. It does not use water so waste volumes are kept to manageable levels. When the waste is removed, it is about 5% of its original volume.
Water-borne sanitation is commonly installed in municipalities that have existing sewerage systems. Rural and periurban municipalities that do not have existing sewerage systems are the principal markets for the stand-alone system. The Department of Education and Limpopo province’s Department of Health use the Enviro Loo system in their rural schools and clinics respectively, and are the biggest clients of the company. Currently, the dry loos are being installed in schools in Limpopo, he says.
The recession and the loss of orders to Dubai have meant that sales of Enviro Loos have decreased during the past year. However, the company received an increased number of contracts to operate and maintain the units during the same time. The City of Cape Town’s tender included a maintenance contract for the system with Enviro Options.
The company usually creates a small business within the community to operate and maintain the system. This creates employ- ment and keeps the system operating and maintained. Users and owners of the system are educated in its use and the people employed by the small company to maintain the systems supplement this through regular interaction with users and owners.
“Where we established formal maintenance crews, we find that users are very positive about the product because it operates continually and is not another failure,” La Trobe says.
Enviro Options communications manager Wendy Mdaki says that maintenance of the system is critical. She says that municipalities must follow up on infrastructure projects that they have completed to ensure that main- tenance is done on existing infra- structure. Maintaining the infra- structure creates jobs but also keeps the infrastructure effective.
La Trobe agrees and adds that, if maintenance is not done, the public sees the failure of the system as a problem with the product and not as result of lack of maintenance.
The Enviro Loo system cannot use chemical detergents and the company provides an organic detergent with which to clean the system. Biodegradable substances can safely be used in the toilet.
Enviro Options received the Intel Environment Award in 2005 from the Tech Museum, in the US, for its waterless dehydration/ evaporation Enviro Loo. Fifty thousand units are in use throughout the world and the company recently exported a number of systems to France and one to the US in March 2010.
Interest in the system has increased since the award was received. La Trobe says that Enviro Options is part of the drive to halve the number of people without access to sanitation by 2015. The company plans to expand its sales into provinces where its products have not been installed before. There are new inquiries from the Middle East region with the easing of the global recession.
When asked if South Africa can emerge as a developed country by 2040, as discussed between business, government and labour in November last year, La Trobe says that this is possible, but that South Africa’s development is restricted by the amount of water the country has. He says that any technology that saves water and does not pollute will be sought after.
Mdaki says that municipalities and governmental structures must be aware of new and alternative sanitation systems in order to select a sustainable and cost-effective system. As an added benefit for agricultural communities, the waste collected by the maintenance teams can be treated and used in composts as fertiliser.