DiF UnSchool’s Creative Change Makers

Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF)
UnSchool’s Creative Change Makers session

I’m participating in the DIF, in the unschool session number 3 . The DIF is an online platform that aims to inspire action towards a circular economy, with a focus on Cities in Transition (etc). This is a result of a previous session I gave to the Unschool crowd in Cape Town, presentation at this post.

This page will be updated as I think of things (at first a bit messily), and after the session serve as a place to follow up on the conversation.

I’ll be talking about sanitation’s role in Cities in Transition, how it can contribute to the bioeconomy and urban greening, while maintaining public and environmental health. The critical factors to enable this transition include more distributed business models and innovations in logistics. More than that, we need to develop good products. The current dry toilet solutions are for the most part products which we will never be willing to use ourselves – they are ‘for the poor’, but not ‘pro-poor’.

For some background, this presentation titled Sanitation in the context of Water Sensitive Design: The Waste(water) Biorefinery (pdf, 5MB), presented at the Peri-Urban conference in November 2017

And the most recent presentation was at the Dry Toilet conference in Finland titled Future for sanitation in cities? which also talked about the toilets during Cape Town’s #dayzero scare.

I am now thinking around the concept of decentral, or distributed – this slide from the peri-urban presentation illustrates why:

Logistics of moving the material to where it can be processed is the biggest challenge to make dry toilets work in cities. This aspect is also important in the bio- green and circular economies and I am currently learning more about this. Learning about different ways to do sanitation is giving me a ‘bucket of knowledge’ more than just a bucket of shit (to recall a takeaway from the Unschool session).   I summarise some of my in-process learnings in this post [still very rough – hang in there!]. Dry sanitation is basically a solid waste challenge, which is a well developed (formal or informal) infrastructural service in settlements.

On the formal | informal thing, a colleague and solid waste expert has great points on how to support the informal economy, and he says, for example that “Formal doesn’t make sense if every other sector is informal. Then, the focus should be on transport infrastructure.” and “Waste pickers are essential. They need to be recognized.” If the only way things work is informally, then we need to support that through our policies and approaches. More points from him in this post.

Things sanitation can have a beneficiation effect on:

  • Healthy soils in the urban environment, leading to
  • Urban greening which helps reduce the urban heat island effect, can help with breakdown of chemicals like petroleum fuels, and
  • Help plants take up carbon dioxide and other emissions.
  • Provide nutrients that contributes to production of biomass as raw materials for the bioeconomy.

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