Making Charcoal from an unlikely source, your waste


A considerable amount of Africa’s enormous urban areas have a terrible notoriety for poor waste management.

Because of unregulated dumps and improper drainage and sewage systems, gathered human waste is most often dumped into the sea. This happens across the Africa continent.

Another concern is fuels for cooking. Due to a heavy dependence on firewood and charcoal as cooking fuels, as a result, the continent’s forests are fast depleting.

Faced with these two overwhelming challenges, a group of business people in Accra have decided to take on these two problems. Accra is the capital city of Ghana located in West Africa. These entrepreneurs have realized that one of these problems is a solution for the other.

They have come up with an interesting way of converting this unpleasant smelly human waste into an odorless, healthy and energy-efficient cooking fuel which looks exactly like charcoal.

How its done:

Every day over a hundred trucks collect raw sewage from across Accra city. The collected sewage is taken to a place called Lavender Hill.

Lavender Hill (Accra) is a venue located at Jamestown in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana where the Accra Metropolitan Assembly disposes liquid waste directly into the sea (Atlantic Ocean).

This method of disposing the waste has produced a terrible stench that comes from the hill.

The new sewage treating plant in Accra costs $2 million. The hope is that once they have all the infrastructure in place, they will be able to treat all the waste that comes from Accra city.

Another plant is set to be built at Lavender Hill.

The procedure of converting sewage into charcoal:

Every morning about 40 trucks bring in the raw sewage.

The water is then separated from the solids.

The water is cleaned and the solids are dried.

The dried solids are also treated.

 The dried solids are then fed into a barrel, and burned.

The process of burning is to turn the dried solids into charcoal.

After being burnt, what results is charcoal being left behind.

The charcoal is then grinnded into a powder.

Cassava flour is then used as a binding agent and its mixed together with the charcoal powder.

The mixed up materials are then put into a press, and pressed out into very nice charcoal shapes for domestic cooking.

this resource recovery method ends up bringing value to the recycled waste.


The product has yet to be introduced in the market, and SNV still needs to pilot it on a small scale in different market niches, to see how well — or not — these products can be adopted, the right price, and just simply if people would use it.

“Human excreta in many cultures including those in Africa have sometimes a very bad connotation. People don’t really like to touch it. They like to stay away from it. So that cultural aspect will have to be part of this pilot, to see whether people are really also willing to handle [charcoal] briquettes made of human excreta,” Wim van Nes, SNV Netherlands’ senior strategy officer for renewable energy, told Devex..

SNV hopes to secure funding for the pilot phase from the private sector, as pilot testing can no longer be done in university, but in communities. The representative from the not-for-profit is however aware that it can be difficult to mobilize private sector funding at this stage without assurance that there is a market for this product.

“At this stage, the private sector may hesitate to already put too much fund into it. It’s a bit early … it’s more realistic that we look for donor funding, [those] who may be interested in supporting this kind of activity,” argued van Nes.

Appropriate Technology

Africa is Africa with its own difficulties. So breaking a method down to its most basic components and creating a system that can work in the long run is a method that can be used to help solve the continents problems.


source: devex, smallstarter

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