Globally, 4 billion people lack access to adequate collection and treatment of their waste. This lack of sanitation costs over $260 billion annually in early deaths, productive time lost, and medical care related to diarrheal disease. Burgeoning populations already strain sewage systems in developing cities, which are projected to grow at unprecedented rates during the 21st century. The Tarpeh Lab sees these challenges as an opportunity to design resource recovery into waste treatment without the inertia of 20th century infrastructure. Revenues from selling waste-derived products can be used to fund toilets and thus reduce diarrheal disease. In Nairobi, Kenya, we produced urine-derived fertilizers at lower cost than synthetic fertilizers in a full-scale excreta collection system. We will continue to identify treatment objectives and validate novel processes through our research in developing contexts.
Complementary to our fundamental research, the Tarpeh Lab studies how resource recovery processes are scaled to market by comparing them to existing approaches, conducting pilot studies, and identifying factors that facilitate and oppose adoption. Our research has won several accolades in business competitions as ElectroSan. We plan to collaborate in this systems-scale research with industrial partners, the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, and the Codiga Resource Recovery Center to inform our laboratory studies.