Fernanda Costa – Running a Social Enterprise Business
Last updated August 21, 2019
Fernanda is back to discuss her company, Loowatt in great depth. Loowatt is a social enterprise which develops a waterless toilet technology.
- Loowatt develops a waterless toilet technology that packages human waste in biodegradable polymer plastic for the conversion of energy and fertilizer.
- Most waterborne diseases come from fecal wastes.
- A normal developing country’s household would have two mobile phones but no toilet.
- Loowatt found out that in many parts of the world conventional sanitation never reaches them. So, according to Fernanda, they needed to think outside the box and think about other ways to provide sanitation to those people. So, they provide what is called container based sanitation wherein the waste is contained underneath a cartridge and the cartridge is taken away from the household and treated somewhere else.
- Loowatt is currently doing a feasibility study in the Philippines. And what they noticed is a variation in conditions.
- it rains a lot in the Philippines, especially in July. So, what happens is that the toilets in the houses of these less fortunate people overflow. And then the ones who would be most affected and who would often get sick are the children because they are the ones who are most exposed and more vulnerable to these diseases.
- According to Fernanda, there’s a lot of opportunities to do work around the world and in the Philippines and there are companies that are interested in working with social enterprises.
- There are currently 2.5 billion people around the world that have no access to sanitation. And that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s population.
- Loowatt helps transform from fecal waste into a commodity.
- There is grant money available for companies which have ideas that will help improve the lives of people.
Hi and welcome to another episode of Outsource Accelerator podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore and I’m joined today by Fernanda Costa. She is a Brazilian living in London working for a company called Loowatt. Loowatt is a social enterprise for Profit Company that has a revolutionary new toilet system that Fernanda explains within this podcast. The toilet system has good application for the poorer communities of the world where they don’t have standard sanitary provisions. So, what you get here is a really interesting insight from a social enterprise but also an insight into the less fortunate aspects of the Philippines. And you know it’s a reminder that the Philippines is a burgeoning economy but yet there’s still tens of millions of people that are getting as yet left behind. But hopefully that tide is now turning. So, a really good episode here and I hope you enjoy it. If you want any information about Fernanda about Loowatt or anything we mentioned in this episode go to our show notes and you can get those at outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode50. Enjoy.
Derek: Okay so welcome back. We’ve got Fernanda with us again. Hi Fernanda.
Fernanda: Hello Derek.
Derek: And Fernanda is in the Philippines at the moment and we spoke to her on a previous episode but she’s with her company which is Loowatt which I’ll allow Fernanda to explain in greater depth. But the Philippines as no doubt my audience would now know has huge wealth disparity and there is nearly 110 million people here. There’s probably 20 million people living pretty well and then there’s about another 18 million which are living pretty much hand-to-mouth. Well that’s not quite true. But I think there’s about 20 million which are certainly you know existing on less than $5 a day. So, it’s a country that is developing. And Fernanda is involved in technology which could possibly help them. So, it’s quite exciting to explore that side of social enterprise as well. So, I’m yeah. What do you wanna introduce us to Loowatt.
Fernanda: Yes, So, Loowatt, what we do is we develop a waterless toilet technology that packages human waste in biodegradable polymer plastic for the conversion into energy and fertilizer. So, what we do is to transform waste into a commodity. So, you can make money out of poo by turning into energy making into fertilizer which is a product that you can sell. And there’s currently 2.5 billion people around the world that have no access to sanitation. And that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s population. So, the demand is enormous. And you know we see this demand you know hugely in the developing world countries. So, a lot of part of Asia, Africa, and Latin America and so on.
Derek: And what are the what are the effects when people don’t have the sanitation. Do you get all of those associated diseases?
Fernanda: Absolutely. I mean when you talk about waterborne diseases they are really talking about shit borne diseases so as soon as human waste gets in touch into clean water you have contamination and you have diseases
Derek: And that’s commonly the issue because the fecal waste gets into the water supply.
Fernanda: Absolutely. I mean this is like diarrhea is one of, like probably the highest reason for like child mortality in the world. It’s yes, it’s very severe, very serious and I mean you know I’m in quite a few developing countries you now have households with two mobile phones per household but no toilets. Because you know it’s a matter of putting an antenna and having a phone and sanitation is a much harder piece of infrastructure. So, what we’re finding is that in many parts of the world conventional sanitation which is like flushed toilets will never get to them. So, you need to think outside the box and think about other ways that you can provide sanitation. So. We provide what is called container base sanitation. So, the waste is contained underneath a cartridge and that cartridge is taken away from the household, from the person into to be treated elsewhere. And we currently use this. We have this system deployed in Madagascar where we started working since 2012 with the help of a grant from the Gates Foundation and we have successfully been operating there since 2012 and 100 households. And what we find is that I’m sorry I lost my train of thought.
Derek: Yeah. And so, you’ve been out to I mean you’re not even going to provincial. You’re actually just going to parts of the mainland of the Philippines which isn’t too far from Manila. But what are you seeing there and what sort of conditions are there for the less affluent of the Philippines.
Fernanda: Yeah. So, we are currently doing a feasibility study over here. And what we see is a variation really in conditions. So, from houses that are like I don’t know very, very small. With like six people living in it’s one big room for everything for like mattresses they’re folded into the wall and then at night they fold back and making into beds. And then the kitchen is the same area as the as the living space as the bathroom everything is kind of together. So, the bathroom sometimes consists of using you know buckets and buckets and using latrines. And in some places the latrine is shared with other people. And in most cases, they have overflown. They are full and they haven’t been emptied in years and therefore they’re no longer.
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Derek: So, that’s just escaping water table as well.
Fernanda: Absolutely. And it rains a lot here in the Philippines is the weather especially this time of the year we are now in July. It rains pretty much every day. So, what happens is that these toilets overflow so we have seen this. And then the ones most affected are the children sure because they are most exposed to for these diseases.
Derek: So, I don’t realize that these things that we obviously take for granted in affluent societies. But
Derek: So, these communities they share one communal latrine.
Fernanda: Yes. Yes, they do. They do and another thing that we don’t quite realize is that you know in some countries it’s I mean it’s dangerous to go to the toilet at night if you’re a woman, if you’re a child. There are a lot of situations and circumstances and people and children fall into it fall into all the waste and women get raped. And so, there are a lot of issues around sanitation that way beyond just the toilets. But you know it is general safety and this is general well-being so it’s very important to be able to have that. So, you know it’s a basic human need. And you know so many so many people lack it.
Derek: Incredible. Fantastic. And how do you find the environment here are they receptive to social enterprise. Have you found it.
Fernanda: Yeah. I mean there is a lot of opportunity to do work around the world and here in the Philippines there’s there are companies that are interested in working with social enterprises. They are there’s a grant money available for companies that have ideas. And yeah, I mean it is just a way of doing a little bit of research and there’s definitely opportunities for sure.
Okay, so hope you enjoyed that episode and got some good insight there into the social enterprise into Loowatt. And the less fortunate aspects of the Philippines. If you want any more information on this episode about Fernando or Loowatt please go to our show notes and you can find those at outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode50. And if you want to contact us for any reason ask us any questions please do so. We will reply personally and directly to you. You can do that. Email us at ask @outsourceaccelerator.com. See you next time.