The occasion was a tour of a facility that burns human waste and produces water and electricity (plus a little ash). I have visited lots of similar sites, like power plants and paper mills, so when I heard about this one—it’s part of the Gates Foundation’s effort to improve sanitation in poor countries—I was eager to check it out.
The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.
Here’s a short video from my visit in November, which explains how it all works:
Why would anyone want to turn waste into drinking water and electricity?
Because a shocking number of people, at least 2 billion, use latrines that aren’t properly drained. Others simply defecate out in the open. The waste contaminates drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year, and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically.
If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy.
Western toilets aren’t the answer, because they require a massive infrastructure of sewer lines and treatment plants that just isn’t feasible in many poor countries. So a few years ago our foundation put out a call for new solution.
One idea is to reinvent the toilet, which I’ve written about before.
Another idea—and the goal of the project I toured—is to reinvent the sewage treatment plant. The project is called the Omniprocessor, and it was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based north of Seattle. I recently went to Janicki’s headquarters to check out an Omniprocessor before the start of a pilot project in Senegal.
The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1000 degrees Celsius) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact it meets all the emissions standards set by the U.S. government.
Before we even started the tour, I had a question: Don’t modern sewage plants already incinerate waste? I learned that some just turn the waste into solids that are stored in the desert. Others burn it using diesel or some other fuel that they buy. That means they use a lot of energy, which makes them impractical in most poor countries.
The Omniprocessor solves that problem. Through the ingenious use of a steam engine, it produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare. The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity.
If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry. Our foundation is funding Janicki to do the development. It’s really amazing to see how they’ve embraced the work; founder Peter Janicki and his family have traveled to Africa and India multiple times so they can see the scope of the problem. Our goal is to make the processors cheap enough that entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries will want to invest in them and then start profitable waste-treatment businesses.
We still have a lot to learn before we get to that point. The next step is the pilot project; later this year, Janicki will set up an Omniprocessor in Dakar, Senegal, where they’ll study everything from how you connect with the local community (the team is already working with leaders there) to how you pick the most convenient location. They will also test one of the coolest things I saw on my tour: a system of sensors and webcams that will let Janicki’s engineers control the processor remotely and communicate with the team in Dakar so they can diagnose any problems that come up.
The history of philanthropy is littered with well-intentioned inventions that never deliver on their promise. Hopefully, these early steps will help us make sure the Omniprocessor doesn’t join the list. If things go well in Senegal, we’ll start looking for partners in the developing world. For example I think it could be a great fit in India, where there are lots of entrepreneurs who could own and operate the processors, as well as companies with the skill to manufacture many of the parts.
It might be many years before the processor is being used widely. But I was really impressed with Janicki’s engineering. And I’m excited about the business model. The processor wouldn’t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace. It’s the ultimate example of that old expression: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Predicted by the World Food Organization, in 2025 1.8 billion people will live in countries and regions suffering from water scarcity.
In total, two thirds of the world’s population will be faced with this problem.
Over the past century, the growth rate of water consumption is almost twice faster than population growth.
Researchers tell that today 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water, 2 billion are constantly faced with scarcity of supply and another 2.6 billion do not have at their disposal necessary sanitary facilities (e.g. water supply).
70% of water consumed by mankind is used in agriculture.
In some developing countries agriculture’s zone reaches 90%.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), today four out of every ten people in the world do not have access to common toilets with dump wells and two out of ten are forced to constantly use contaminated water.
WHO operates the following statistics: 1.8 million people die each year from diarrhea diseases (including cholera), 90% of whom are children under 5 years old.
These diseases in 88% of cases are caused by using contaminated water and inadequate sanitation.
Improved water supply reduces diarrhea morbidity by 6-25%. Improving the quality of drinking water may reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 35-39%.
Improving access to safe water sources and hygiene practices can reduce trachoma morbidity by 27%.
It’s a very interesting to know about the most popular non-alcoholic drinks in the world. Where are they from, what are their compositions and some special features about them.
Tea is a drink made by infusing leaves of the tea plant in hot water. The name ‘tea’ is also used to refer to the leaves themselves; and it is also the name of a mid- to late-afternoon meal in the British Isles and associated countries, at which tea (the drink) is served along with various foods.
Tea has been an item of trade and tribute for at least three thousand years. It was first cultivated and brewed in China, and many of the best varieties still come from China. Some of the finest oolongs in the world are grown in Taiwan. Japan also produces a considerable amount of green tea, most of which is consumed domestically.
After the British took up tea drinking, they began cultivating the plants native to India in order to have more control over the trade. India, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian countries produce a large portion of the world harvest.
Standage says tea played a leading role in the expansion of imperial and industrial might in Great Britain many centuries later. During the 19th century, the East India Company enjoyed a monopoly on tea exports from China.
As the Industrial Revolution of 18th and 19th centuries gained steam, tea provided some of the fuel. Factory workers stayed alert during long, monotonous shifts thanks to welcome tea breaks.
The beverage also had unintended health benefits for rapidly growing urban areas.
Water (H2O) is often perceived to be ordinary as it is transparent, odorless, tasteless and ubiquitous. It is the simplest compound of the two most common reactive elements, consisting of just two hydrogen atoms attached to a single oxygen atom. Indeed, very few molecules are smaller or lighter.
From a biological standpoint, water has many distinct properties that are critical for the proliferation of life that set it apart from other substances. It carries out this role by allowing organic compounds to react in ways that ultimately allow replication. All known forms of life depend on water. Without water, your body would stop working properly. Water makes up more than half of your body weight and a person can’t survive for more than a few days without it. Why? Your body has lots of important jobs and it needs water to do many of them. For instance, your blood, which contains a lot of water, carries oxygen to all the cells of your body. Without oxygen, those tiny cells would die and your body would stop working. In addition to being an important part of the fluids in your body, each cell depends on water to function normally.
Coffee is a well-known beverage prepared from coffee beans, of the coffee plant.
The story of how coffee growing and drinking spread around the world is one of the greatest and most romantic in history and starts in the Arabian Peninsula, where roasted beans were first brewed around A.D. 1000. Sometime around the 15th century coffee spread throughout the Arab world.
When coffee arrived in Europe it was similarly hailed as an “anti-alcohol” that was quite welcome during the Age of Reason in the 18th century.
Coffee raises capacity for work, gives strengths and energy and topes up. But there is a negative coffee’s influence in the human’s health because of its caffeine.
Coffee also fuelled commerce and had strong links to the rituals of business that remain to the present day.
Kvass is a very refreshing Russian beverage which is made in many Russian households about once a week. Kvass is a lacto-fermented beverage made from stale rye bread. It tastes like beer but is not alcoholic. Kvass is considered a tonic for digestion and excellent thirst. It is also recognized that kvass is safer to drink than water.
Kvass protects against infectious disease, there is no worry about sharing the glass. In wealthy households, various kinds of kvass were made either with rye bread or with currants, raspberries, lemons, apples, pears, cherries, bilberries and lingonberries.
Real bread kvass using natural ingredients in its production technology – dried rye bread, sugar and water. As a result of the fermentation process, a thirst-quenching drink is obtained, with a distinct bread aroma and a strong rye bread taste. Unifying modern production technology with ancient fermenting methods, a flavor composition is obtained reflecting a product of a completely new quality, which pleasantly quenches thirst. Recommended to be used chilled!
The alcohol content is so low (0.05-1.44%) that it is considered acceptable for consumption by children. It is often flavoured with fruits or herbs such as strawberries or mint.
Juice is a liquid naturally contained in fruit or vegetable tissue. Juice is prepared by mechanically squeezing or macerating fresh fruits or vegetables without the application of heat or solvents. For example, orange juice is the liquid extract of the fruit of the orange tree. Juice may be prepared in the home from fresh fruits and vegetables using variety of hand or electric juicers.
Popular juices include but are not limited to apple, orange, prune, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, tomato, carrot, grape, strawberry, cherry, cranberry, celery and pomegranate. It has become increasingly popular to combine a variety of fruits into single juice drinks.
Juices are often consumed for their health benefits. For example, orange juice is rich in vitamin C, while prune juice is associated with a digestive health benefit. Cranberry juice has long been known to help prevent or even treat bladder infections, and it is now known that a substance in cranberries prevents bacteria from binding to the bladder.
Lemonade is a worldwide non-alcoholic drink. Summer is the best time of drinking it especially with the mint. Iced lemonade always will slake and will raise your mood.
It’s a drink made of lemon juice (fresh better), water and sugar or honey. Lemonade much better and healthy than any soft drink. To prepare lemonade is so easy as preparing tea or coffee.
In the US, a drink made of lemon juice, sugar and water in the UK, a carbonated drink that doesn’t necessarily contain anything closer to a lemon than a bit of citric acid.
Black tea promotes healthy arteries and increased blood flow due to antioxidants called falconoids, which give tea its flavor. Cholesterol levels drop as tea consumption increases. Tea is reported to reduce the risk of cancer, yield fresher breath and fewer cavities, and help build bones. It also contains approximately half the caffeine of coffee, and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
Making a Cup of Black Tea
The single most important thing to remember in all of this process is heat. The tea leafs impart their taste to the water most effectively when the water is actually boiling. To make really good tea you must go to every length possible to exclude coldness from the equation.
Tea in the cup is easy. If someone asks you for a cup of black tea and you put a bag in a cup and add boiling water no one is going to complain. However… to make a REALLY GOOD cup of black tea…
Boil a kettle with freshly drawn COLD water. Add a little boiling water to the empty tea cup to warm it. Put a single bag of black tea into the bottom of the cup making certain that the tea takes up as much of the visible surface area as possible.
When the water is boiling pour it into the cup by taking the kettle to the cup and trying to make certain that as much boiling water hits as much tea as soon as possible. Leave to infuse. The tea in tea bags is so fine that two minutes should see you right.
Always take out the tea bag before giving the cup to someone else especially since if you leave a tea bag in then soon enough all the air caught within it will escape and the tea bag will sink to the bottom of the cup where it will lie in wait for the unwary and then, just as you move to drain the last dregs of the drink, it will rush from the darkness like a some satanic seal desperate to invade your mouth and propigate it’s evil children in the cavities of your cheeks. Well may be it’s not that bad, but it is really unpleasant to get that big cold wet kiss of a sulking tea bag.
Don’t add sugar. Sugar is unnecessary, unhealthy and masks the delicious flavor of tea. Most importantly when making a cup of black tea is NEVER “top up” a cup with more water. “Topping up” does not make more black tea in the cup it makes the same amount of tea diluted with more water. This will kill the taste of your tea and make you generally hated by all right minded tea drinkers. Be prepared when adding the water first – realize that you will have to take the tea bag out and realize that you will probably need to leave a little room for milk.
People drink Black tea with sugar, milk and syrups. In the US and Europe people often just want a slice of Lemon with their black tea.
People all over the world always choose drinking tea with cookies, sweets or cakes sitting in front of the TV or talking to friends.
Black Tea Recipes
Iced Black Tea
Pour one cup of boiling water over two tea bags, let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. For stronger flavor, steep longer, or use more tea bags. Remove and squeeze out tea bags. Add ice and enjoy. Make a larger quantity using more tea bags and water, and refrigerate the rest to drink throughout the day.
Egg Nog Delight
6 Red Rose English Breakfast tea bags
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart milk
1/2 pint whipping cream
Brew Red Rose tea bags in 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags. Cool tea. Add beaten eggs, condensed milk, vanilla, salt, tea, milk and mix well. Serve in mugs. Top each mug with whipping cream and ground nutmeg.
Earl Grey Punch
1 and 1/4 cups of brewed Earl Grey (made with two tbsps. leaves)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cups of orange juice
1/2 cups apple juice
1 cup gingerale
1 tbsp. sugar
2 sprigs of mint (optional)
Dark rum to taste (optional)
Mix all ingredients together leaving out the ice cubes. Chill in refrigerator. Remove mint, add ice cubes and serve.
Migraines affect more than 36 million Americans – that’s nearly one out of every ten people! It’s also in the top twenty disabilities that cause people to miss work. The thing is, if they all knew this secret to curing and preventing these chronically severe headaches, that number would see a drastic reduction.
Fruit tea - one word describes it - DELICIOUS and HEALTHY.
Fruit tea comprised of browned shredded quince which has been oven-dried, dry-grilled until brown, and stored ready to steep in boiling water.