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New perspectives on sanitation at 1st International Terra Preta Sanitation Conference at Hamburg University of Technology Organized by GFEU and WECF

Co-Funded by the German Federal Foundation for the Environment

Under the patronage of the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

The native Indians of the Amazon were practicing a very sustainable method of sanitation. What is left from their culture of around 500 years ago, are – besides beautiful ceramics – large areas of land which are fertile thanks to man-made fertile soil from bio-waste, human excreta and charcoal.

The method has recently been rediscovered and has been adapted for implementation to nowadays society by scientists of Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). In partnership with WECF and GFEU the first international conference on TPS was organized and carried out at TUHH from 28 until 31 August 2013 to bring and share knowledge on this interdisciplinary subject together. Over 120 representatives of research and development programs from 22 countries contributed to this event.

At the 28th it was given the opportunity for preregistration and a first get to know each other and to get in tune to the following program.

29th August

Prof. Ralf Otterpohl, head of the Institute for Wastewater Management and Water Protection at TUHH and Dr. Haiko Pieplow from the German Federal Ministry of Environment, opened the conference with an introduction regarding high- and low-tech solutions for sustainable sanitation. Prof. Otterpohl pointed out that the principles of TPS are simple, but that thus far, conventional sanitation industries show little interest in this methodology. Fortunately the conference room was full of enthusiastic scientists and waste-water practitioners, interested in making this ancient technology accessible to everybody.

After the opening by Prof. Otterpohl and Dr. Pieplow, Prof. Bruno Glaser presented a keynote on the potential and constrains of Terra Preta like substrates for soil amelioration and climate change mitigation. In session 1 further presentations no TP soils, soil fertility and organic farming followed. After session 1 poster were presented. The authors of the contributed poster introduced there work to the audience on stage.

The second session, which addresses the subjects of TPS Applications, Quality of products, hygienic parameter, legislation, certification was opened by a keynote presentation with the title “Terra Preta as an Alternative for the Management of Sludge from Waste Water Treatment Plant” by Prof. Srikanth Mutnuri from India. TPS as an alternative to conventional sludge treatment options was also highlighted by the following presentation of Stefan Böttger in his presentation “Terra Preta – production from sewage sludges of decentralised wastewater systems”. In Daniel Meyer-Kohlstock presentation “the integration of Terra Preta Sanitation in European nutrient cycles – Options for alternative policies and economies” was elucidated. The session ended with the introduction of an organic fertiliser representing a futher development of Terra Preta with potential for application in organic and conventional agriculture by Bojan Pelivanoski.

The third session was dedicated toilet systems, logistic and operation aspects and practical examples of TPS. Prof. Thorsten Schütze from South Korea opened the session with a keynote presentation on TPS as “A key component in sustainable urban resource management systems”. In the following presentations next to “A socio-economic assessment of urine separation, with a reflection on the possibilities for Terra Preta Sanitation, for the recycling of nutrients to rural agriculture in the Philippines” (Rosa Kuipers) practical examples from Ethiopia, Philippines and Germany were presented.

The first day ended with a reception in the town hall of Hamburg-Harburg were the mayor, Thomas Voelsch gave a warm welcome to the visitors and an overview on the history of Hamburg and Harburg.

30th August

Session 4 started with a keynote presentation of Prof. Zifu Li from China. His presentation “Energy balance analysis on the pyrolysis process of animal manure” opened this session on carbonisation technologies and potentials and was followed by Edward Someus (Sweden) presentation With his presentation “Reducing mineral fertilisers and chemicals use in agriculture by recycling treated organic waste as compost and bio-char products” he gave an introduction to the EU co-funded project REFERTILE. Brian von Herzen from the climate foundation presented the bio-char technology as an alternative way for the treatment and utilisation of human excreta. Thomas Voss presentation with the title “Wood gasification in parallel flow fixbed gasifieres for combined energy and charcoal production - experiences from six years of operation” showed an alternative way of energy and charcoal production as complementary technology for TPS. Hydrothermal carbonisation as process for wet biomass was introduced by Claudia von Eyser and her presentation, “Product quality of hydrochar from sewage sludge in terms of micropollutants”.

Session 5 focussed on microbiology, sanitization aspect and lactic acid fermentation and was opened by a keynote from Dr. Gina Itchon. In her presentation, “The Effectivity of the Terra Preta Sanitation (TPS) Process in the Elimination of Parasite Eggs in Fecal Matter: A Field Trial of TPS in Mindanao, Philippines” evidence for the potential of pathogen removal within TPS was given. Mr. Hendrik Scheinemann presented results on his microbiological research with the title “Hygienisation and nutrient conservation of sewage sludge or cattle manure by fermentation”. Markus Stoeckl presented the result from his master thesis and gave an “Assessment of hygienisation of faecal matter during terra preta inspired vermicomposting by qualitative identification of salmonellae”. Andreas Walter from University of Innsbruck Austria worked with the same TP substrate as Markus Stoeckle and assed the “Microbial communities in charcoal and microbe amended composts” by means of micro arrays.

In session 6 two further presentations on lactic acid fermentation (LF) as an adequate process for the conservation of human excreta and key component of TPS were presented. In a keynote presentation, “Faeces Treatment By Lactofermentation Process Based On Terra Preta Sanitation System Concept”, Prayatni Soewondo from Indonesia highlighted the role of LF in TPS. This was also confirmed by the ending presentation of Asrat Yemaneh and his presentation on “Investigation of Low-Cost Sugar Supplement for Lactic Acid Fermentation of Human Excreta in Terra Preta Sanitation System”.

In plenary discussion and conclusion the conference was resumed and an outlook towards TPS implementation and further research demand elucidated. Experts and members of the scientific committee stated their personal outcome and discussed questions from the audience. The further research demand within TPS can be seen concerning two topics –the sanitisation within TPS and involved conversion processes at the one hand and at the other the production required charcoal. Nearly the entire audience stated that the conference should be further carried out in the next two or three years, whereas also India or Berlin was suggested as venue.

After the presentations and plenary discussion a joint dinner was taken at the Café Sternchance, where the participants could exchange in a more convivial atmosphere.


31st August

At the last day of the TPS-IC an excursion to three sites in Hamburg took place. In the ecological settlement in Hamburg-Allermoehe composting toilets and decentralised grey water treatment is in operation since app. 20 years. The participants were guided through the settlement and housings and the constructed wetland was introduced in a presentation by Uwe Jensen (Ökologisches Leben Allermöhe .e.V). Wolfgang Berger from Berger Biotechnologie gave a short presentation on the installed composting toilets and reported on the experiences regarding operation and acceptance.

Second point of the excursion was the public toilet at Hamburg central station, where an insight in the recently installed treatment system, was given. Uli Braun from the Intaqua AG lead the visitors through the plant and the entire black water loop was introduced.

The excursion ended at the permaculture garden of the Tutenberg Institut where recently TPS toilet was installed. Next to the TPS toilet a new wood gas stove was operated and presented to the participants.