Wouldn’t it be nice if all remote corners of the world could equally access basic sanitation systems?
Wouldn’t it be nice if sanitation systems could convert waste into fertilizers and clean water that could be safely released into the environment or put to use?
And wouldn’t it be nice if this could be made a reality through a collaboration between Chemicals Business, SCG, the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thammasorn Co., Ltd., and T-Belco Co., Ltd., each bringing unique expertise to the table to achieve a single goal: to improve sanitation and bring a higher standard of hygiene to all across the globe, especially those in developing countries?
Where It All Began
Prof. Dr. Thammarat Koottatep of the Asian Institute of Technology is the head of the research team behind the Zyclone Cube, a system that takes advantage of gravity and centrifugal force to quickly separate liquid and solid waste without electricity. As it can eliminate 50% of the contaminants and kill germs with heat, this invention produces disinfected solid waste that can be used as pathogen-free fertilizers and potable water. He spoke of the beginning of this collaboration:
“The improvement of sanitation in developing countries is vital. AIT is committed to developing new technologies and delivering innovations to the public. However, we are researchers and need the industrial sector to help shape our work into viable products that can be launched into the global market.”
While the invention was effective, AIT had never been able to fully commercialize it. That was until they met Attawut Kumkrong, Open Innovation – Partnership Management of Chemicals Business, SCG, after which a collaboration was formed.
“SCG is equipped with the capacity to turn technology into viable products. For AIT’s invention, I believed that plastic was an easier solution for them, so I approached them. As our role was the project initiator, we had to manage the collaboration between multiple parties, so that everyone worked in the same direction. We also had to find partners to help bring the project to fruition. As project coordinator and expert on polymers, we had a network of companies that could form the product and manufacture it.”
The Path to Success
Just as a clear direction for the collaboration emerged, then came the first challenge that all parties involved had to deal with.
“SCG tasked us with designing a toilet with a full range of functions. It had to be equipped with solar panels to allow it work in areas with no electricity. Also, it had to be portable, easy to install, and self-contained, so that it could work without connecting to any central sewage or utility system. That was a huge challenge,” added Dhiti Towiwat, President of Thammasorn Co., Ltd., an expert in plastic processing.
“Given how regular boxy public toilets could feel cramped, we set out to design a cylindrical toilet that was the same size but felt more comfortable. The inspiration was the African baobab tree, which is often dubbed the tree of life because it can survive in arid conditions. Beyond the aesthetics, the design had to be such that the toilet would meet functional needs in all conditions, so that the waste management could be implemented in every remote corner of the world. This could be considered a break through innovation in toilet design. Normally, toilets equipped with a wastewater management system are large and have a complex bacterial management system. However, our invention was solar-powered, and the systems were much smaller in size. In addition, it could treat waste immediately without having to wait for the bacterial culture to grow. That was what set us apart.”
In his remark on this collaborative project, Mr. Prachum Pakpob, President of T-Belco Co., Ltd., an expert on plastic welding and molding for water and oil tanks, said, “SCG was well familiar with our work. When we discussed the project, I could see the benefits the invention could bring. The material that T-Belco has chosen for this product is a high-quality polyethylene as it is lightweight and can be welded easily, making designing much easier. In addition, it remains durable in all conditions, which helps ensure a long lifetime and save costs of replacement. Also, as polyethylene comes in different colors, we can make the toilet more colorful and lively. Cleaning is also much easier thanks to the glossy surface of the material. Therefore, polyethylene is the ideal plastic for this project.”
As the coordinator who brought the partners together, Attawut added, “There were a number of challenges along the way, but the good thing was that everyone had fun with them. The project is very interesting because there has never been anything like this in Thailand, and there are only a handful of such projects across the world. It will allow us to recover wastewater from toilets for use. While not drinkable, the water will be clean and safe for plants. The solids will be disinfected with heat and dried into fertilizers. These benefits were what drew everyone to this project.”
Benefits for All
“The value of this project is hardly limited to just the technology that AIT and SCG have co-developed. It can be beneficial in the long run. Once the public and private sectors recognize the importance of this project, I think it will lead to better sanitation management. The disinfection can help preliminarily elimination pollution, and that will help improve the sanitation system both in Thailand and all over the world,” said Prof. Dr. Thammarat.
Better sanitation management will directly improve the quality of life as it helps eliminate pathogens and pollutants that would otherwise be released into the environment.
“Hygiene is paramount. What we do will bring many benefits. Our toilet can extract solid waste and turn it into fertilizers. Also, the water released into the environment is also free from pathogens, which are currently a serious problem across the world. I think this product will be greatly beneficial and will be advanced much further in the future” added Prachum.
“The project has to be developed sustainably to benefit everyone. We’ve modeled it on a circular economy. In addition to regular waste, we also think of how we can recover human waste for use. This is what I mean by sustainability. This project will give our companies more diverse business opportunities and greater sustainability. At the same time, the global population will enjoy better sanitation systems, and Thailand will earn recognition for it. I think that on the whole, everyone will benefit from it,” said Attawut.
How They Felt about the Collaboration
As the lead researcher of the product, Prof. Dr. Thammarat told us what he thought about this collaboration: “What happened during the collaboration was a shift in attitude for both myself and my team. Instead of focusing on academic research, we had to think of how to make our technology appealing to users; otherwise, our idea would be just another academic article in libraries, waiting to be taken by some other researchers. However, we came to understand that we had to convert our technology into commercially viable products. We had to understand the market and consider the commercial aspect as well. That was an important turning point. I would like my fellow researchers to know that we have to consider the demand of the market instead of conducting research for research’s sake. We have to think about practical applications and turn our research into products.”
As another partner, Thiti said, “Imagination was required to successfully create this wonderful product. While it is just a toilet, it can be of great value for people without proper sanitation and waste management. I am proud to have been part of this project.”
Echoing Thiti’s sentiment, Prachum added, “T-Belco is proud because this project helps protect the environment, which is a concern for everyone. We earned their trust and were invited to join the team, and it was a team effort that brought to life a product that would benefit so many people across the world. It was optimally designed and created with the best materials. It was worth our dedication.”
“SCG strives to develop technologies and innovations for the public. We are committed to enhancing the quality of life. This is why we have taken on global healthcare with our technological management. This is why we took the first step and will continue to move forward,” concluded Attawut.
SCG strives to support and advance all kinds of innovation with its expertise in polymers and strong business network to create products that are beneficial and will earn global recognition. Today, this partnership has proven that it takes concerted efforts from each and every one of us to improve our quality of life and make the world a better place sustainably.
Special properties of the Zyclone Cube
The Zyclone Cube Waste Treatment System
- Efficient solid-liquid waste separation:
The plastic material and the shape have been specifically selected and designed to facilitate waste flow and enhance the separation of solid and liquid waste. Also, the product has a smooth surface, which resists staining and in turn enhances the efficiency of waste treatment.
- Waste disinfection:
Liquid waste – Biotreatment and advanced electro-chemical disinfection
Solid waste – Thermal disinfection at 100-120oC, reducing solid waste to disinfected black powder
Treated solid waste can be reused as organic fertilizers, and treated wastewater is safe for reuse.
The toilet with integrated water treatment system
piloted in Klong Phlapphla community, Rama 9, Bangkok, Thailand.
1. Durability: Made with rotational molding, the toilet is weather-resistant and has a lifetime of over 10 years.
2. Ease of assembly: Easy to transport, the toilet can be assembled and installed in 30 minutes without any special equipment.
3. Compatibility with both on-grid and off-grid systems: The special roof design allows solar panels to be installed and set omnidirectionally, allowing this toilet to be installed in any part of the world
“Even the best vaccine in the world cannot help people living with poor sanitation. This is because new pathogens will keep breeding. However, if we can build toilets with a waste treatment system, that will be like a super-vaccine and can prevent disease better than any vaccine.”
Prof. Dr. Thammarat Koottatep of the Asian Institute of Technology
“It is amazing that it was the imagination of SCG that began it all and inspired everyone until the project came to fruition. I believe that this small product of imagination, can make a big difference to the world in an amazing way.”
Dhiti Towiwat, President of Thammasorn Co., Ltd., Plastic Processing Expert
“T-Belco is satisfied with the product because we have done our utmost to ensure that it can be presented internationally. We have done our very best.”
Prachum Pakpob, President of T-Belco Co., Ltd., An Expert on Plastic Welding and Molding for Water and Oil Tanks
“The world’s population will have a better sanitation system. I believe that SCG is proud of the result because our company has always conducted business in a way that enhances the quality of life for the public. This project perfectly corresponds with our business principles.”
Attawut Kumkrong, Open Innovation – Partnership Management of Chemicals Business, SCG
“Today, I’m pleased to say that a growing number of companies are ready to take orders for Reinvented Toilets and for the Omni-Processor. Companies like Clear, Eco-San, SCG Chemicals, and Eram Scientific Solutions are announcing their first reinvented toilet products. And CRRC, Sedron Technologies, Ankur Scientific, and Tide Technocrats are announcing their Omni-Processors.”
Remarks by Bill Gates at Reinvented Toilet Expo, Beijing, Nov 6, 2018
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