An Ideologically Driven Start-up: Israeli Cleantech Company Converts Toilet Waste To Cooking Gas
By Mara Vigevani/TPS • 19 November, 2018
Converting toilet waste into cooking gas may not sound like a smart idea at first, but an Israeli company has done just that and on Monday launched its Bio-Toilet to mark World Toilet Day.
The Bio-Toilet was created by HomeBiogas, a Beit Yanai based cleantech company co-founded in 2012 by Oshik Efrati, who describes the company as a “an ideologically driven startup that looks for solutions to convert organic waste into renewable cooking fuel and improve poor sanitation conditions from open defecation that causes diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. ”
Indeed, with 4.5 billion people in the developing world lacking access to a toilet; around 1.8 billion people using a drinking water source that could be contaminated with faeces and some 892 million people practicing open defecation, improving sanitation systems in the developing world is one of the biggest challenges of 21st century.
With the aim of raising awareness of the importance of sustainable sanitation systems, the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, declared November 19 as World Toilet Day, to inspire action to ensure that everyone in the world has access to a safe toilet by 2030.
Efrati, 40, tells TPS that he became aware of the problem while travelling in Africa after his military service.
“In my journey, I saw the difficulties people encountered in meeting even basic needs. I saw people practicing open defecation in fields, alongside roads. I personally saw people walking kilometers by foot daily just to find a proper place, and I noticed how unhygienic open defecation is,” he recalls.
After returning to Israel, Efrati decided to study biology and together with Yair Teller, whom he met at the University, decided to look for a solution to the problem.
At first, they developed the HomeBiogas biodigester, which converts food waste into gas, with the bio-toilet basically an upgrade of the existing system that connects a toilet to the biodigester and converts human waste into gas.
The process for the production of the gas is quite simple, Efrati explains. The organic waste (up to six liters per day) goes through a bacterial process initiated by methanobacteria that can be easily found in the waste of cows and other ruminants. The bacteria turns the human waste into biogas which is then stored into the tank at low pressure. The gas then flows from the system to the kitchen stove via pipes.
“One kilogram of organic waste can produce one hour of cooking gas,” says Efrati
“ Our product is special because is very easy to assemble and to use,” he continues. “The digester is created from a special plastic sun-resistant, gas-and-odor-free and can be used for at least 15 years. It doesn’t require electricity or any kind of maintenance.”
While the need to improve sanitation where open defecation is practiced is the motivation behind the Bio-Toilet, Efrati says the company’s solution can also be applied to disaster areas or remotely located communities not connected to infrastructure.
“Our vision is to make biosystems easily available in developing countries and to provide healthier and dignified solutions to the open defecation problem. We have already sold systems in Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and Guatemala. We are now in contact with the Indian government which is interested in subsidizing the product.”