In November, the FINISH Mondial team traveled to the first of its kind, Sanitation Economy Summit, in Pune, India, where we caught up with Kelsey Mcwilliams where we were able to chat about the links between various sectors to the niche Sanitation Economy and especially such opportunities regarding agriculture. Find here some highlights from what we learned from Kelsey:
FM: What is the Toilet Board Coalition’s (TBCs) role in the Sanitation Economy?
KM: The Sanitation Economy is a robust platform of data, resources, energy, water, nutrients with the aim that sanitation can provide not only social and environment benefits, but an economic return. The TBC’s role is to define the Sanitation Economy and spread awareness of the potential of this system. But its more than that too, its engaging partners to implement the Sanitation Economy, understanding the gaps or obstacles to implement and then pulling in the right organisations and business to help overcome those gaps.
FM: What is the linkage between agriculture and sanitation? How do we link these more closely?
KM: The link between agriculture and sanitation is that sanitation is just another form of food waste that until recent history has been returned to the soil. As the population continued to grow, the nutrients instead of being left in the open for health reasons were collected and then dumped into rivers or oceans. In today’s developed countries, most of these valuable nutrients are still flushed right into the ocean. I think the key to linking sanitation to agriculture is the benefits (economically, social and environmental) it can provide. But to do this there needs to be more demonstrator project and scientific evidence of the safety of these technologies, which both exists, in combination with the right language that will attract governments, agriculture industry, and consumers.
FM: In your experience, regarding the circular economy of sanitation/waste, what is the most difficult element to address? How are you looking to overcome it?
KM: It truthfully depends on the stakeholder and the region. But in general, we are seeing a lack of capacity from sanitation entrepreneurs to implement solutions in remote areas or areas that are different than the markets they currently operate. We are looking at developing a more robust system that would connect agriculture operators and those entrepreneurs in their region that would be able to implement a circular solution. There are also concerns around consumer’s acceptability of products made with Toilet Resources, where companies are hesitate to be the first to act or try new solutions. But these technologies such as co-compost, biogas are not new technologies? So how do you combine the success of companies that have been using these technologies and selling to consumers for decades with innovated business models?
FM: What is your biggest takeaway from the first TBC Sanitation Economy Summit? What excited you most from what you saw at the Summit?
KM: It was great to have such diverse stakeholders in the room that naturally led to cross-collaboration. That was the most exciting thing for me to see was everyone talking about the solutions and how to improve them. The Sanitation Economy has strong support across the sector and excited to see where this momentum takes us.
Thank you to Kelsey for sitting down with us and the entire Toilet Board Coalition team for a dynamic and fruitful conference full of inspiration and innovations that we will carry into the new year!