Thanks to their Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, a New Zealand company has found a way to treat sewage directly in people’s homes. Scion Research’s innovation uses pressure and microwave technology, similar to that used in mining and larger sewage treatment plans, to create a method called wet oxidation.
This toned-down process adds oxygen to waste, then puts it all under intense pressure and heats it to roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes organic material to oxidize in about an hour, converting it to carbon dioxide and water.
Thus, the resulting byproduct is simply a sterile, clear liquid that can be filtered out to produce purified water, as well as ash, that can then be transformed into fertilizer.
Daniel Gapes, an environmental engineer and research leader on the project, says “The challenge is really high. It needs to feel like a regular toilet.” Right now, with an operational system developed, the task is to scale down the model so that it can be used in residential settings.
The end goal is, of course, to help the 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have access to safe, affordable, and clean sanitation systems. And this can also be applied to more previously developed infrastructure that is aging in more developed areas.