Increasing Integrated Waste Impact: Bringing it to Practice | WASH waste blog series 5

This is the fifth and last blog of a series on waste management and the intersection of fecal and solid waste – both the challenges and opportunities. Based on learning experiences worldwide, solid waste management (SWM) and fecal sludge management (FSM) are closely linked. This blog series aims to demonstrate the opportunities for integrating FSM and SWM to improve how our world operates and creating financial value from these value chains. The blogs are a collaboration by Kim Worsham (FLUSH), Cuthbert A. Onikute (DalO Systems, formerly Dechets a l’Or), Priska Prasetya, Sophie van den Berg (WASTE), and Eline Bakker (LinkedIn). The other blogs in the series can be read here [insert link].

Note: The WASH sector is the segment of the international development sector focused on water service delivery, fecal waste management, and personal hygiene – hence the acronym WASH.

In the earlier blogs we guided readers in learning about sanitation opportunities by combining FSM and SWM in business and building more sustainable futures for our environment. In this final blog, we will share some of the key takeaways and some final ideas on where we can go from here. The links to blog 1 – 4 can be found at the end of the document.

A Short Recap

In our first blog, we learned that the world has a waste problem with both solid and fecal waste. Across the world today, 4.5 billion people lack the access to safely managed sanitation and in low-income countries only 50% of the waste is collected. Mixing the two streams hampers collection and treatment: the lack of source segregation in both FSM and SWM affects waste treatment plants’ operational efficiencies, costs, as well as the quality and quality of produced co-compost and recyclable waste streams.  The second blog shows the importance of segregation of wet waste and dry waste to facilitate the linking of the two sectors. Eventhough segregation at source is not easy and it is difficult to achieve participation of all residents in source segregation programs. However, there are good examples showing that it is possible.

We also discussed the opportunity to integrate SWM and FSM to create effective waste business models. New business models are coming up that create more value in the waste. Part of the sticking points to ensure the businesses that model integrated FSM and SWM are successful will be government policy interventions that support the work. Lastly, we shared how the day-to-day operations of an integrated waste management system would work.

Main Takeaways

During our discussions on this blog series, several takeaways became evident:

  • SWM and FSM are already entangled in its production and in the circular economy. Integrating the business models and operations to deal with both simultaneously may improve overall waste management and financial sustainability.
  • Both waste streams can enforce each other. The mixing of organics with fecal matter improves the quality of recycled products (biogas or co-compost) and saves in necessary other treatment costs or disposal fees.
  • The presence of plastic waste influences the efficiency of FSM and organic SWM and is therefore needed to be included in the integration as well, as it has to be taken out or preferably avoided to get into the two waste streams.
  • Getting the organic waste out of the waste stream going to a disposal site is cost saving in transportation of the bulk waste and life span of the disposal site.
Pre-Conditions to Waste Integration

WASTE Foundation, in collaboration with RWA and 3RWASTE India, conducted a study on the opportunities for integrating FSM & organic waste in municipalities called CLUES (Collaborative Local Urban Environmental Services). Based on the results, WASTE formulated the following set of criteria as being important to successfully set up an integrated system for FSM and SWM:

  • Local Buy-In: Known actors (local champions and decision makers) must be committed to SWM and FSM and favour the combination.
  • Sufficient Capacity: There must be institutional and technical capacity for service delivery in both sectors.
    • Technical capacity, at least segregating waste into wet and dry (at the minimum) by SWM is essential for financial viability of the integrated FSM and SWM system.
  • Cooperation and Coordination: There must be effective cooperation between the two value chains (in principle organic waste & fecal sludge).
  • Additionally, overall the existing SWM and FSM systems in the municipality must function well enough to enable
  • Model Viability: The business model has the potential for providing service delivery and selling reuse products is
  • Market Viability: This market must be financially viable The integration of both sectors will benefit the financial viability of actors of both service delivery systems.

These assumption have been used to set up a tool to analyse the FSM and SWM sector. In addition to an overall city assessment, benchmarks have been formulated to give a score on 12 aspects of the FSM and SWM sector in the city. The results are depicted in a so-called spider web, offering a good snapshot of the situation of both sectors. The shape of the web gives a good indication on what type of projects are needed in the city and which weak spots would need extra attention to ensure a durable development of the sector.

Spider showing the level of the sanitation and solid waste sector per category.

This tool is currently being used to assess possible integrated activities in a couple of cities in Bangladesh via WASTE’s FINISH Mondial programme. To check whether the two sectors can easily be integrated with each other, the so-called sunburst can be made based on the same but rearanged and weighed benchmarks. Here the red colour indicates what aspects should be dealt with to enable an integrated approach.

So-called Sunburst, the colours indicate the score for the aspect.
Where Do We Go from Here?

The potential to revolutionize waste management is great. New business models and ways of integrating services opens opportunities for cities as well as the workforce. The potential in combining FSM and SWM into integrative businesses that support circular economies provides ways for businesses to employ more people in their regions. Integrated waste management can bring in young people interested in tech, innovations and the environment, who can take charge and become job creators while making the world more sustainable and resilient to climate change. For those who have read through this blog series, we encourage you to send us feedback and ask us questions. With your insights and support, we aim to develop a concise report that will encapsulate the parts from this series that resonated most.

A few organizations are already working in the integrated waste management space, and have been for a while! We recommend checking out the great work being done in Kenya through Sanergy, WASTE’s multi-country programmes like FINISH Mondial and the Securing Water For Food programme producing  co-compost in India, Safi Sana Ashaiman Factory (Ghana), and The Biocycle (South Africa).

Are you looking for tangible action right now? We encourage those who are interested in the possibility of integrating waste management to look forward to next steps.

For Exploring Investors: If you or your company is interested in investing in this work, reach out to Take-A-Stake. Take-A-Stake helps finance small growing businesses in WASH and plastics.

For Interested Organisations: If your organisation is interested in learning more about organisations already piloting and implementing these kinds of programs globally, reach out to WASTE. WASTE is leading a 6-country circular sanitation economy & waste management initiative called FINISH Mondial that’s championing much of what this blog series is about.

For Entering Entrepreneurs: If you are excited about trying your hand at waste management entrepreneurship and need some advice on how to build and implement a business model and strategy that fits your local requirements, hire FLUSH and Eline Bakker (LinkedIn). Both advisors are readily available to provide those services and have decades of experience globally.

For Growing Operators: If you are looking for help on how to grow and scale your waste management business and are looking for ways to improve your customer experience and logistics, hire DalO Systems to help with your Customer Relation Management (CRM) needs. DalO Systems is a tech startup with solid backing to provide CRM solutions that will boost your ability to take your waste management business to the next level.

Further reading

This particular series of blogs on integration of SWM and sanitation can be found here:

Blog 1: We Have a (Waste) Problem

Blog 2: Separation is Waste’s Achilles’ Heel

Blog 3: The Circular Economy Business Model

Blog 4: The Business Model in Practice

Blog 5: Increasing Integrated WASH Waste Impact: Putting It To Practice

Get in touch!

Email the WASH waste team here.