Reclaim Is a Business Opportunity

Reclaim Is a Business Opportunity

Contributors to blogpost: Christy Prouty, Civil and Environmental Engineering & Eric Koenig,  Anthropology, University of South Florida

This week’s blog will showcase yet another wastewater reclamation opportunity—Mr. Luis Garcia’s Ecofriendly Solutions®—demonstrating how, in Belize, Reclaim is…a business opportunity.

Our video highlights the opportunities and challenges involved in one entrepreneur’s vision to reclaim nutrients and water from wastewater in the context of a rapidly developing coastal tourism setting. Take a look at this article from the Journal of Cleaner Production or this video to get a better idea of how tourism development is impacting the future of local water quality, wastewater management, and livelihoods on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize.

A centralized system (to be managed by a private-sector utility) has been proposed for the peninsula that seeks to pump wastewater from residences and businesses into facultative wastewater treatment lagoons to address the demands of increasing populations and tourism flows. However, many residents are looking into environmentally amenable, yet cost effective decentralized systems as alternatives. Some residents have adopted Mr. Garcia’s Ecofriendly on-site treatment systems that productively reuse of water and nutrients from household wastewater.

While this video will briefly show the socio-economic, environmental, and technical implications of Mr. Garcia’s systems reclaiming water and nutrients as a business, our greater objective is ongoing collaboration between anthropologists and environmental engineers working at the intersection between human, engineered, and environmental systems.

Please respond to the following questions on this Youtube video:

  • From a technical, cultural, and / or socio-economic perspective, give reasons why it is important to consider the different wastewater systems on the Placencia Peninsula, both those that are currently implemented and those that are suggested for the future.
  • In this week’s video, we highlighted how the word ‘Reclaim’ can represent a business opportunity for entrepreneurs in sustainable wastewater management. What other examples of wastewater resource recovery entrepreneurs have you seen, experienced, or read about, and how do they address the logistical, cultural, and socio-economic challenges of promoting their products and services? [Think of your answer in terms of scale, perceptions, regulations, geographic and cultural context, and supply and demand]
  • How could this video be improved?

This is the blog for week 4 of the Spring 2015 “Reclaim Is…” seminar.

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  1. Maya TrotzNo Gravatar

    The comments below are from Christy Prouty and Eric Koenig:

    1.) From a technical, cultural, and / or socio-economic perspective, give reasons why it is
    important to consider the different wastewater systems on the Placencia Peninsula, both those
    that are currently implemented and those that are suggested for the future.

    Although a few participants noted issues with the clarity of the question, PIRE students generally highlighted the importance of considering multiple wastewater treatment technology options and the pros and cons of each system for a particular setting, considering factors like scale, social acceptance, economic costs, environmental impacts, technical specifications, and regulations. From a technical standpoint, PIRE students noted the importance of surveying existing sanitation infrastructure, access to such infrastructure, wastewater loads, and the efficiency and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems in a particular geographic setting before proposing new systems.

    This discussion resonates with surveys conducted for a HALCROW feasibility study (2012) on the Placencia Peninsula to assess the suitability of a centralized wastewater system, especially with variable tourist flows on the peninsula between seasons. From a cultural standpoint, participants in the YouTube discussion noted the importance of surveying resident perceptions of wastewater, existing wastewater management, and the effectiveness and acceptability of existing systems to meet their needs in order to understand cultural barriers limiting adoption of more environmentally-friendly systems on the peninsula. Many participants also noted monetary costs as a factor in the selection of particular systems over others, and lack of awareness, information, and participation in / about proposed wastewater systems as significant issues influencing use and appropriateness of certain technologies over others. Furthermore, variable education about wastewater discharge and technology options among consumers and stakeholders on the peninsula, and why for example, they would want / need a household reuse garden were listed as reasons affecting adoption of particular systems. Several other participants discussed the environmental impacts and resilience of existing wastewater systems over those proposed for the future, particularly in light of punctuated tourism flows and concerns over the impact of tropical storms, hurricanes, and flooding on the low-lying peninsula. Finally, participants noted how the regulatory environment for management of the systems, including treatment standards, maintenance, and enforcement of environmental policy and regulations, structures decisions to use / adopt particular systems over others.

    To increase public transparency, accountability, buy-in, and sustainability of particular wastewater technologies suggested for the future (like the integrated water and wastewater treatment system proposed for the peninsula), participants in the discussion suggested integrating a broad spectrum of stakeholders in decision-making processes about the systems as well as involving local residents in the maintenance and operational of the systems after they are implemented. Moreover, policies may be amended or proposed that encourage residents and businesses to use more eco-friendly wastewater systems like the ones proposed by EcoFriendly Solutions Limited through government subsidies for the increased costs for installation and maintenance of these systems.

    2.) In this week’s video, we highlighted how the word ‘Reclaim’ can represent a business opportunity for entrepreneurs in sustainable wastewater management. What other examples of wastewater resource recovery entrepreneurs have you seen, experienced, or read about, and how do they address the logistical, cultural, and socioeconomic challenges of promoting their products and services? [Think of your answer in terms of scale, perceptions, regulations, geographic and cultural context, and supply and demand]

    Participants in this week’s YouTube discussion (mostly PIRE affiliates) noted how entrepreneurs are reclaiming resources from human and mammal waste to produce valuable products and services tailored to local and global markets. At a larger, corporate level, a number of businesses (like Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies)reclaim nutrients from wastewater to create fertilizers for industrial and domestic agricultural and landscaping applications. At a smaller scale, food and swine waste are being converted into biogas through biodigesters, which enable local businesses (like family farms and restaurants) to generate their own electricity and/or fuel that can be sold back to energy utilities. Diversion, composting, and eco sanitation toilets are being used to reclaim productive nutrients for both household and commercial applications like productive gardens. In some cases, animal dung is even being converted into paper products marketed on a global scale. Some large-scale wastewater utilities – like in Singapore – are even converting wastewater into potable water for human consumption, highlighting advanced treatment processes and marketing the water as clean through educational campaigns and media.

    Key challenges participants noted that limit the marketing and adoption of these “reclaimed” resource products, systems, and services included: negative perceptions of “reclaiming / reusing / recovering” resources from waste, lack of education and a need for end-user consultation, infrastructural and monetary costs of using the products, systems, and services, possible adverse health and social exposures for employees and entrepreneurs, and technical maintenance of reclaimed resource products and systems. To overcome these challenges, many entrepreneurs have undertaken educational campaigns and research on end-user perceptions of “reclaimed” resources, adapting their products and services in congruence with consumer demands, and seeking out ways to sustainably scale up marketing, distribution, maintenance, and access to their “reclaimed” products, systems, and services.

    3.) How could this video be improved?

    PIRE students and faculty generally thought the video was well done and liked the idea / theme of ‘Reclaim as a business opportunity,’ but noted several areas where the video could be improved. Suggested technical improvements for the video included: better video and audio quality (especially for the interviews), consistent image sizing, borders, and sound levels, and use of higher quality images and captions for pictures. Structurally, some participants suggested a need for a conclusion to wrap up the video and also to shorten the duration of the video to under 5 minutes. Although discussion participants generally remarked that the content was cleared conveyed, some were unsure whether the video was intended to be an advertisement for EcoFriendly Solutions Limited or a case study of wastewater systems on the Placencia Peninsula. For the next iteration of the video, some participants suggested simplifying the language to increase its accessibility to a broader audience, including interviews with residents who currently use the systems and interview(s) about opportunities to improve the systems, as well as footage of the Placencia Peninsula.

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