Turning Waste into a Precious Resource

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Richard Howarth
4 minutes

WASE has developed a containerised wastewater treatment system, providing communities with access to affordable sanitation and renewable energy.

London-based start-up WASE is producing a decentralised solution for generating energy from wastewater and organic waste.  

saniWASE provides decentralised treatment for onsite sewage and faecal sludge management in peri-urban and urban communities to produce biogas for cooking and electricity, water for irrigation as well as organic fertiliser.

Some 2.4 billion people have no safe sanitation facilities or latrines, while 785 million people worldwide have no access to clean water (Water Aid).

The patent-pending electromethanogenic reactor (EMR) technology at the heart of WASE’s system accelerates the breakdown of waste using a low energy (<5w) electrode design, which boosts energy production.

WASE CEO Thomas Fudge came up with the idea while working within a small community in Ghana in 2010 and observing that children were falling sick and missing school due to poor sanitation.

He says: “After the realisation and further research, we saw that not only is sanitation an issue, but that there is a lack of essential sustainable infrastructure that is affecting communities’ abilities to grow worldwide. Fudge set up WASE in 2017 with co-founders William Gambier and Llŷr Anwyl.

“The current approach using centralised systems is outdated with extortionate costs, and negative environmental impacts - it is not fit for a sustainable future.”

To address these issues, Fudge set up WASE in 2017 with co-founders William Gambier and Llŷr Anwyl.

How WASE has benefitted from its collaboration with LSBU

In 2019 WASE joined the Sustainable Innovation programme which provided funding to hire Kyle Bowman, a bio-electrochemical engineer.

“His experience of bio-electrochemical systems has enabled WASE to redevelop existing designs and build new and more efficient systems. Kyle has also been managing the continuing research, freeing up my time to focus on my other duties as chief technology officer,” says Gambier.

Without LSBU's support in hiring Bowman, WASE would have been at a greater financial risk during a crucial moment in the company's development, according to Gambier.

With Bowman’s help, WASE was also able to redevelop existing designs to build new, more efficient systems. They were also able to publish a review article about the technology.  

The funding also subsidised the costs of key equipment for WASE’s lab, to enable rapid product development.

saniWASE pilots

WASE is piloting its waste processing technology at two sites, both in Nairobi, Kenya. This will be carried out in partnership with SNV, a Kenya-based non-profit agriculture, energy, water and sanitation organisation, and the World Food Programme (WFP), with funding from Innovate UK.

The SNV installation will use organic (waste) food as the main feeder while wastewater will be the main feeder at the pilot plant installed at the United Nations Office.

Next steps

WASE is planning a seed funding round in 2021 to raise funds to launch its saniWASE biocentre. The system is housed in a 20-foot shipping container for easy shipping and quick installation (two days) and is able to treat up to 4 tonnes of waste a day.

WASE is also launching other solutions for onsite waste management: industriWASE, a circular waste treatment designed for food and drinks manufacturers and agriWASE, which provides an advanced alternative onsite treatment for agricultural waste, instead of anaerobic digestion.  

Gambier says the company also intends to retain Bowman after the Sustainable Innovation funding expires and has also created two more full time roles as it expands.