In Mombasa, roughly 50% of the population lives in informal settlements. These communities are among the worst off when it comes to sanitation services – especially waste collection and treatment. Living in such densely packed dwellings that the exhauster trucks that empty septic tanks in higher income communities can’t access them, and living on incomes too low to afford exhauster truck services anyway, these communities rely on manual labor to empty full pit latrines. When a latrine fills up, manual laborers remove the waste and simply dump or re-bury it within the same community.
Pivot has a vested interest in implementing reliable and cost-effective means of getting waste out of these communities and to our Pivot Works processing plant. There’s a clear financial motive: the more waste we can collect, the more fuel we produce, and more revenue we generate. Remember, informal settlements represent 50% of waste generation in Mombasa (a stat that’s relatively constant across most developing cities). And of course we have strong social and environmental incentives for going after this waste. True to our values, we consider it our responsibility to develop business models that directly improve the lives of the poor, and our environmental impact is one key means by which we measure of our success as a company.
With construction of Pivot Works underway in Mombasa, we have a team of three people working directly with manual emptiers to develop and test mechanisms for getting waste from the communities to our plant. The goal of the Pivot team is to devise a system that sufficiently incentivize emptiers to collaborate with us – ensuring that waste makes it to our plant rather than being dumped in the community – while remaining cost effective from a business perspective. Their work is funded through a grant from the Kenya Climate Innovation Center, a business incubator supporting the commercialization of clean energy and technology companies in Kenya.
Over the next several months we’ll be releasing updates on their work through the Fecal Sludge Sourcing Series. Stay tuned.