If the municipal sewer won’t come to the house, then the house must go to the municipal sewer. Or get its own on-site wastewater recycling system.
Kenya’s cities are booming. In 2012, one fourth of the East African nation’s inhabitants lived in urban areas and the UN reported an annual growth rate of 4.1% for the urban population. However, the development of urban sewage systems often fails to keep up with the ever growing number of city dwellers. The lack of proper sewage disposal can lead to sanitation problems and environmental pollution.
Lucy Mutinda decided to solve this issue by equipping buildings with small on-site wastewater recycling plants. The young Kenyan entrepreneur founded EcoCycle Ltd and started promoting what she calls “sewer mining”. Before you recoil at the thought of drinking filtered sewage, please note the purified water is only used for secondary purposes such as toilet flushing, lawn irrigation and dust suppression.
“EcoCycle is now two and a half years old and we have managed to roll over more than fifty projects of on-site recycling systems for office blocks, hotels, homes and institutions. Clients are very happy that they are saving on water bills and conserving their environment.”
- Lucy Mutinda
EcoCycle mainly resells and installs systems that are manufactured by a German firm, Klärtechnik Reinhardt. The small wastewater plant collects all types of domestic wastewater (i.e. not only from toilets, but also from the kitchen and bathroom) and then purifies it using a technique called sequential batch reactor (SBR) technology . Oxygen is injected to the tank to treat the sludge with a biological process. The system is silent and does not smell.
EcoCycle installs treatment systems of different sizes, based on the client's needs. The smallets plants (for 4-10 people) only take up 5m x 1.4m by 1.7m.
The EcoCycle concept seems like a promising idea to save water and decrease pollution. While we should ultimately aim for every city dweller to have access to proper sewage disposal, this could be a good solution to mitigate health and environmental risks in the meantime. Kenya is not alone: India, Ethiopia and several other countries are experiencing rapid urbanisation and could benefit from on-site wastewater treatment systems.