Workshop: Distributed business models for the bioeconomy

Focus: dealing with biomass that may be or have potential to become hazardous

Case study: 1) container based sanitation (CBS) and 2) urine beneficiation, catering to the sanitation service delivery to higher LSM markets in South Africa.

Why attend?

This workshop follows on from issues raised during a recent sludge to resource symposium (original event and my write-up). The recurring droughts, water insecurity and failing wastewater management infrastructure also forces us to consider the feasibility of quality, waterless sanitation for all. At the same time sanitation provides opportunities in terms of biomass and nutrients for the bioeconomy.

To the best of our knowledge, the intricacies of getting biomass to value is poorly developed. The aim of this workshop is to share and learn from other industries and specialist fields like logistics and distribution companies to provide the support that can really activate the bioeconomy, and deliver better, more equitable and more sustainable services as a result.

Both the sanitation sector and the bioeconomy has parallels with resource mining – for example agriculture and minerals extraction. What innovation is happening in solid waste management? What are the lessons learnt from the biodiesel industry? How does the economically viable recycling streams get their materials back from the end users, e.g. glass and tin cans? Can we better integrate the informal economy? Who is looking at this and where are the gaps?

This workshop focuses on an approach of starting small, private and embracing the informal economy. In other words not have a focus on centralised, large, government assisted, subsidised or partnered projects.

This is an initial scoping exercise to see what’s out there. If worth exploring further we hope to have a follow up workshop and report-back around June 2019. If you have any comments or suggestions, even if you are not attending, please let us know at

Event page (to add to your calendar)

* This workshop is independently run. GreenCape kindly allowed the use of their venue. This workshop is not currently registered for CPD points but can be requested – please get in touch ASAP to allow enough time for the paperwork.

2 Replies to “Workshop: Distributed business models for the bioeconomy”

  1. Points of discussion:
    Appropriate scale, distributed scales
    From the sludge to resource symposium the difficulty in obtaining budget and working through the procurement process was listed as a barrier to implement existing technologies at local municipality level. How can we scale down and collaborate between different sites, combine different waste streams from industry, household and commercial areas – looking at the 2ML/day scale and smaller, and what is the sweet spot for sludge amounts?

    Supporting industries
    This workshop follows on from the sludge to resource symposium. It is about growing the supporting industries to the sanitation, sludge and bioeconomy industries.
    The bioeconomy is promising but has unique challenges, particularly considering sanitation and food waste: putrescibility of the biomass (raw material for the bioeconomy), dilute production (little bits produced all over the place) and often produced a distance away from where it is needed. Some streams have seasonal production. Securing raw material could mainly be a logistics challenge. How can one innovate around Transport/Logistics/ Distribution of raw materials?

    Collecting raw material FROM people is more difficult than selling them a product. Charging for collection can lead to illegal dumping. Paying for collection is a cost drain, but probably the way to go. How does one incentivise for good sorting of wastes (e.g. faeces without plastic), or good quality urine? This is bundled under the topic ‘Managed maintenance systems payment models

    An important difference between the bioeconomy and the fossil fuel economy is that biological things grow, or die. Raw materials can start to rot and become hazardous. Biological raw materials also typically have very high moisture context, making transport expensive. On the other hand, the transport of raw materials can already be part of the biotransformation process; a truck can be a bioreactor. The toilet can be a bioreactor, reducing volume and odours while producing valuable products. What would such a storage container look like? What would be acceptable for consumers to handle, in a similar way to the wheelie bin? What technologies, data, payment mechanisms, collection coordination, and process monitoring and control (e.g. get an sms: your toilet is about to start stinking, add a cupfull of lime ASAP) can be used to stimulate and monitor this process? Not to be discussed in detail at this workshop, but to give an idea of where this could go, is asking what would the steps between primary collection from the toilet to depots (e.g. at neighbourhood level), and secondary collection for more centralised processing and product formulation look like?

    Desired outcomes of this workshop
    • A better understanding of the needs and opportunities around the supporting industries for the bioeconomy.
    • A project brief for a paper feasibility study of distributed logistics for the bioeconomy
    • A pilot to test this with real people and real toilets, in a fashionable way.

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