Focus Geographies: South Africa and Brazil

How might new business models and digital technologies disrupt the current sanitation system, enabling us to transform renewable resources, improving access to sanitation and unlocking economic value?

The Problem 

Two billion people globally still do not have access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines and of these, 673 million still defecate in the open. Coupled with this, our woeful inability to capture and recycle nutrients from organic waste streams back into the biosphere has resulted in the degradation of almost one quarter of land globally and fuels our reliance on finite synthetic fertilisers.

The Opportunity

At the same time, there is incredible potential for capturing value from the renewable resources that currently largely goes to waste in our sanitation system; be it through the recovery and processing of that resource into valuable products such as energy or high-value chemicals, gaining access to new markets or generating data-rich insights that can be utilised, for example, in the field of preventative healthcare.

The opportunities for innovation within the sanitation economy stretch across multiple areas including:

  • Energy – the conversion of biological resources to energy and fuels to displace the use of fossil fuels
  • Water – extraction and recovery of water for use in applications ranging from agriculture to water-intensive industrial operations
  • Agricultural products – recovering nutrients that can be processed and returned to the biosphere as premium fertilisers and soil conditioners
  • Innovative products – from animal feed and plastics to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, there are already countless applications using material derived from sanitation waste streams that can undoubtedly be further developed
  • Health data –analysis of the information contained within human waste streams being used to inform disease prevention or provide insights to aid in the development of regenerative health products and applications

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