Israeli biogas company transforms human waste into fuel

By Eytan Halon

  • HomeBiogas co-founders (left to right): Chief financial officer Erez Lanzer, chief executive Oshik E
 HomeBiogas co-founders (left to right): Chief financial officer Erez Lanzer, chief executive Oshik Efrati and chief scientist Yair Teller.

HomeBiogas, an Israeli company specializing in the manufacture of small-scale biogas systems, launched its contribution to global sanitation efforts: the Bio-Toilet.

Packed into one box, the compact Bio-Toilet provides a dual solution for off-grid, rural communities. First, it provides an easy-to-assemble and more dignified toilet waste solution. Second, toilet waste is dispatched directly to the company’s HomeBiogas appliance where it is treated and turned into cooking fuel for personal use.

“The potential for the Bio-Toilet system is huge, particularly in rural and remote areas due to the simplicity of the logistics and installation. Our solution doesn’t require electricity,” Oshik Efrati, CEO and cofounder of HomeBiogas, told The Jerusalem Post.

Monday was World Toilet Day. The majority of the world’s population lives without access to safe sanitation. A staggering 4.5 billion people live without a safe toilet and 892 million people practice open defecation, turning our environment and sources of water into a deadly open sewer.

Seeking to raise awareness of dangers associated with the lack of basic toilet facilities, the United Nations General Assembly declared November 19 as World Toilet Day in 2015, with the goal of ensuring safe sanitation for all by 2030. The UN says, however, that the world is not on track to achieve its target.

The Beit Yannai-based company worked for two years to develop their latest waste solution, with Efrati visiting target populations in Africa and India to develop a greater understanding of the issues faced by the world’s most remote communities.

Unlike other solutions, including composting toilets which require considerable maintenance, and septic tanks which can pollute ground water needed for drinking, the Bio-Toilet digester turns both waste and toilet paper into cooking gas.

“The biggest challenge is distribution and financing. But together with the biogas system, we can make it economical,” Efrati said.
“In many rural places there is no cooking gas, so people use charcoal or firewood. In some places, firewood isn’t available anymore and charcoal becomes pretty expensive for family cooking.”

HomeBiogas has therefore built a financial mechanism to sell the Bio-Toilet to families for less than $1 per day for approximately two years, after which they will permanently own the system.

Dozens of Bio-Toilets have already been installed prior to the launch, in Jalpatagua, Guatemala, and in off-grid communities in Israel.