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26/11/2010 // INFO 1 Comment

Cycle could take the sludge out of slum life



A bicycle for most of us is an everyday tool that we use to commute with but for people in countries in the developing world a bicycle is a far more valuable than just a form of transport.

How valuable is demonstrated by an invention by Cambridge University researcher Nate Sharp to use the bicycle as a way of removing sewage sludge in the slums of the developing world.

Nate has developed a prototype bicycle-powered vacuum pump/tank system. It works by putting the end of a hose into a pit latrine, the user then simply pedals the bike to power the pump. Sludge is then sucked into a bucket attached to the back of the bike as the pedalling continues.

The conventional method to remove sludge is with a large vacuum tanker but this is often an expensive option and may not suit the tight spaces of slums.

Nate also added that a lot of the issues currently plaguing pit emptying services stemmed from the sheer volume of sludge that has to be transported. Apart from removing the sewage sludge, the bicycle could be used to move amounts away from an area quicker and more often. On a bike it becomes easy to transport – even on the back of a bicycle.

Of course there is nothing stopping people removing sludge manually, but to do so it would involve close contact with the sludge and in these unhygienic conditions this could lead to diseases like dysentery and cholera particularly if hands remain unwashed. The use of the bicycle allows contact to be away from the pit latrine itself.

A further benefit of the sewage waste that is collected by the bicycle is that it can then be used in used in biodigesters for heating and electricity production. Nate is hopeful of working alongside US sanitation firm Sanegy, which already pilots such a system in the Kwangware slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

Nate has yet to test his bicycle concept out in the field and he plans to take his “People Powered Poo Pump” as it is being termed to the slums of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to test it out in the near future.

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1 comments [leave one]
Steve November 26, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Nate should get a Nobel prize.
How can one find out more about his?


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