According to the law of conservation of energy, it can neither be created nor be destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. Thus, we cannot produce energy to do certain work. Therefore, we use certain substances which help us transform one form of energy to another form.
For example, when we burn paper with a matchstick, light is produced by the flame. If we analyse this closely, light energy is not created over there, it has just been produced due to the transformation of heat energy provided by the matchstick into light energy. Thus, we always need a certain substance to convert one form of energy into another for accomplishing various jobs. We call such materials as fuels. In other words, any substance which upon combustion produces a usable amount of energy is known as fuel. Example: fossil fuels, biogas, nuclear energy, etc.
Now, the energy produced by burning paper is not sufficient to run cars but energy produced by burning petrol is enough to do so. Thus, we can say that each fuel releases its own set of energy i.e. allof themdo not release the same amount of energy upon combustion. The energy produced by combustion of one kg of fuel is known as its calorific value.
Thus, we can differentiate different fuels on the basis of their calorific value for their efficient usage. Furthermore, each of themhas a different cost with respect to another. Some are cheaper while others are expensive. Therefore, we categorize fuel as an ideal based on different criteria.
Fuels which are found in their solid state at room temperature are generally referred to as Solid Fuels. They were the first kind of fuel known to be used by man, basically wood to create fire. Coal was another one of the influential fuels known to man as it leads the way for the industrial revolution, from firing furnaces to running steam engines.
Most liquid fuels are derived from the fossilized remains of dead plants and animals by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earths crust. The fumes of the liquid fuel are flammable instead of the liquid.
Fossil fuels are the dead and decayed remains of plants and animals subjected to decades of pressure and temperature under the earths crust. Primarily fossil fuels are hydrocarbons. They are convenient and effective. They provide the calorific value required to fulfil our needs. Even though they are available in plenty right now, they are a non-renewable source of energy. The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for a large section of the worlds pollution index.
Any material consumed to give out nuclear energy is a nuclear fuel. Technically speaking, any material can be made to give out nuclear energy. But looking at its practicality and feasibility, we pick materials which do not require extreme constraints to release nuclear energy.
Most nuclear fuels contain heavy fissile elements that are capable of nuclear fission. When these fuels are struck by neutrons, they are in turn capable of emitting neutrons when they break apart. This makes possible a self-sustaining chain reaction that releases energy at a controlled rate in a nuclear reactor or with a very rapid uncontrolled rate of a nuclear weapon.
While providing universal sanitation access to all has been recognised as United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, handling the waste generated after the adoption of toilets remains an enduringly prevalent challenge, especially in the low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). The UN estimates that globally, 4.2 billion people or half of the worlds population live without safely managed sanitation that is, their faecal waste remains untreated.
This is because the waste management systems in LMIC are over-burdened and lack finances for optimal operation. This serves as an imploding threat to environmental and human health. It is in this context that we discuss the non-capital-intensive circular economy solutions. These solutions not only design innovations to reduce waste, but also go beyond and highlight the under-explored potential of waste as an economically viable resource.
The circular economy for sanitation (CES) emphasises on the entire sanitation chain: manufacturing material for toilets, collection of waste, treatment of faecal sludge, and transforming this waste and sludge into products that can be used by other industries like fertiliser, fuel and clean water (see figure 1).
CES can enable a self-sustaining sanitation business model that accelerates demand for improved sanitation as well as its by-products, leading to wider economic and environmental gains. In the following paragraphs, innovative CES solutions from across the world are discussed.
An exemplary example of a CES solution can be found in Hyderabad. Amberpet Waste Water Treatment Plant was built to lower pollution in the citys Musi river. The plant treats faecal sludge and pumps the treated water back into the river. Along the process, the sludge is used to generate biogas which fuels the citys demand for electricity.
The remaining compost is sold to the farmers (see figure 2). Other cities in India stand to gain from the CES model in Hyderabad as this business model improves management of sanitation-related waste, protects the environment, recycles waste into agriculture resources while creating employment opportunities.
Sanivation is a low-cost solar technology that can transform faecal waste into briquettes (blocks of compressed fuel) that can be further used as the source of fuel for cooking or heating. Containment and adequate treatment of faecal waste save the communities from exposure to faecal pathogens and diarrhoeal diseases.
Further, Sanivations briquettes burn longer and generate less smoke as compared to other locally available sources like wood or charcoal. Finally, use of every tonne of these briquettes has been claimed to save 88 trees. Substantial environmental benefits when combined with the lower cost (than traditional waste treatment), makes Sanivation a sustainable CES solution.
SasiSana gathers faecal waste from urban slums and uses it as an input for their unique anaerobic digestor to produce biogas, irrigation water and compost or agriculture fertiliser. The biogas is in turn used to generate electricity. The business model thrives on the revenues from the sale of electricity, organic fertiliser and irrigation water. This ensures the self-sustaining nature of the CES.
The green toilet system by LIXIL corporation developed a compost-based design to treat faecal waste. The toilet automatically separates liquid and solid waste. This makes it easier for the maintenance workers to collect and transport the waste to a treatment facility. Since the system does not require water to transport waste to treatment plants, it does not rely on traditional sewage systems and circumvents any potential groundwater contamination.
These business models are a testament to the distinct advantage that small and medium enterprises have in the local economy. A nuanced understanding of market failures can be the driving force to develop products that can integrate waste management by solving the unmet needs of local customers and industries.
While the above examples are a few of the many innovations embedded in CES, these also suffer from certain difficulties: financial viability, scalability, finding wider markets for the end-products and optimising waste collection services. For these businesses to overcome these issues and be replicated across other countries, the local entrepreneurs will need to build ties with global corporations and receive vehement support from the public sector.
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