Recently, I came across the video of a 17 year old boy who designed a Human Waste Bio Reactor that transforms all forms of biodegradable waste into clean renewable energy. This is the story of Leroy Mwasaru, a young man so passionate about the safety of his environment; he was moved to do something about it.
The video shows Leroy and a team of two other classmates-Charles and Amos Dede, working on a project that will serve as a source of sustainable energy at Maseno School. The school which was founded in 1906 recently got a new dormitory that was to house 720 students.
Leroy noticed that the waste from such a huge population was finding its way to nearby springs thereby contaminating the main source of drinking water for the community. The video also highlighted the challenges of feeding such a large population of students using fire wood as a source of fuel in the preparation of their meals. A representative of the school put the amount of money spent on firewood at an estimated USD900.
Firewood itself, poses a dangerous threat to the environment; according to the International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED), 93,000 Nigerians are casualties of smoke inhalation as result of cooking with firewood. Across Africa, the amount of lives lost to the practice of cooking with firewood is staggering. Deforestation is also a major issue as the trees which combat climate change, clean the air and shields us from the effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun are cut down every day at an alarming rate.
So here is Leroy and his teammates coming up with a system that will not only ensure safe drinking water for the community but will also put a stop to the use of firewood in meal preparation. For their prototype, they decided to use organic waste from food remains from his dormitory, slashed grass and cow dung that was secured from a nearby farm.
The video later shows them mixing all these ingredients together with some amount of water to get a thick paste which is then poured into the digester Leroy designed. The bacteria present, acts upon the waste anaerobically as the mixture decomposes. After decomposition takes place, the waste becomes very dense allowing for movement to the lower part of the digester. The less dense matter then floats to the top producing gas that is channelled through underground pipes to the kitchen and finally to a gas burner; simple clean and renewable energy.
The future also saw Leroy and his team designing the human waste version based on their existing prototype. He presented this prototype at the Techonomy 2014 conference in California. In the video Leroy says he is continuously being inspired by the dream that he has for his community and country at large and hoping that the scalability of their biogas project would put an end to the cutting of firewood. It is also expected that the biogas that would emanate from human waste will lead to a constant supply of fuel thereby saving trees and the environment.
It goes without saying that young, brilliant innovators like Leroy deserve all the support they can get. Nigeria plays host to a lot of young minds with amazing ideas geared at tackling the day to day socio-economic problems we face. It could all just be an exercise in futility if they are not able to get the financial backing and support they need.