College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Faecal Waste Workshop Yields Positive Outcomes

A collaborative international networking workshop with the focus on faecal waste management was held at UKZN’s School of Engineering.

Cranfield University in Bedfordshire in England organised the two-day event in collaboration with the University of Witwatersrand and UKZN’s Pollution Research Group (PRG) to bring together professionals, academic researchers and stakeholders in organic waste and faecal sludge management to discuss the challenges and opportunities of faecal waste valorisation and identify research priorities for collaborative research programmes.

‘In many parts of the world, human waste remains largely untreated, leading to the spread of pathogens,’ said Dr Tosin Somorin of Cranfield. ‘Sustainable faecal waste management is required at domestic and community scales for sanitation to be accessible to all – efforts that require alternative ways of managing, recovering and utilising faecal waste.’

The workshop featured technical presentations on research recovery from human waste and other types of waste, highlighting successful case studies. Discussions were geared towards identifying research priorities and developing collaborative research projects in faecal waste valorisation – in particular for the application of a project proposal to the Grand Challenge Research Fund grant from the UK.

Emphasis was placed on innovative approaches for deriving value-adding, market-ready bio-products from faecal waste. There was also a tour to the Black Soldier Fly Plant in Isipingo.

‘The Black Soldier Fly Plant is a treatment facility for the treatment of the faecal waste from on-site sanitation toilets (type latrines and dry toilets),’ said UKZN’s Dr Santiago Septien Stringel. ‘The faecal waste is consumed by the larvae of the black soldier fly, which grow during the process and are killed before reaching the stage of a fly. The dead larvae are then processed for the extraction of the oil, which can have applications in the cosmetic and energy sectors.

‘The remaining larvae mass is composed of protein that can be used for animal feeding on the farms. The fraction of the non-consumed faecal waste can be used as fertiliser after composition or it can be transformed into charcoal through the pyrolysis process,’ said Santiago.

Ms Ruth Cottingham of Khanyisa Projects found the workshop to be a valuable networking experience: ‘It’s great to have people face to face in a room creating relationships with others in similar fields and sharing ideas and knowledge to address the waste issue,’ she said.

Words and photograph: Zolile Duma