Experiment With Excrement

MasenoThis is Leroy Mwasaru, 17. He is a student of the Maseno School, the oldest English language school in Kenya. Maseno was founded in 1906 by Christian missionaries. One of the most famous alumni of the institution is the father of the current US President Barack Obama.

Perseverance shall win through is the school’s motto, and its mission — To   foster  and   promote holistic education and to train students  who  are  capable  of contributing  competently to global development.

In early January 2013, Maseno opened new dormitories for 720 students, and it had a few problems. Pit latrines and a faulty sewage system inevitably left foul odors and polluted local freshwater sources. The kitchen used firewood as cooking fuel. To produce it, the surrounding trees must be cut down and, besides, wood smoke is bad for your health.

Local conservationists were unhappy, residents protested, requiring the school’s closure. So, as Grist reports, Leroy Mwasaru and four of his friends had an idea: to harvest human excrement and other wastes and turn these “products” into a safe, clean and eco-friendly source of cooking fuel.

kenya_human_waste_bioreactor_2-537x380

Human Waste Bioreactor (HWB) proposed by Leroy Mwasaru and his friends.

The HWB is “an underground chamber holds the human, animal, and kitchen excrement, while microorganisms go to work breaking down the muck. This process releases biogas, a source of renewable energy comprised mostly of methane, the same as the fossil fuel natural gas that powers most non-electric stoves in the U.S. The gas is contained in the HWB, ready for use as fuel.

Last month Mwasaru presented at the Techonomy 2014 conference in California, and gained even more ideas to develop and refine the HWB design.

"After the success of our second prototype, we continued to work to improve the equipment, adding the ability to separate urine from solid waste, as urine will reduce the production of gas or, even worse, to slow down the whole process," says Mwasaru.

“After the success of our second prototype, we continued to work to improve the equipment, adding the ability to separate urine from solid waste, as urine will reduce the production of gas or, even worse, to slow down the whole process,” says Mwasaru.

Truly, necessity is the mother of invention.

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