Across the world, about 80 percent of wastewater is dumped back into the ecosystem without being treated, according to a report by the United Nations. Untreated wastewater leads to a range of problems and contributes to faecal contamination of drinking water sources for about 1.8 billion people. Treating wastewater requires treatment plants that can be expensive depending upon the scale of the problem and the technology required. Now, a Bengaluru-based startup ECOSTP Technologies has developed a new and efficient design for sewage treatment plants that takes inspiration from the digestive system of cows. It is so efficient that it does not even need the power to run.
To understand how this new technology revolutionises sewage treatment, we need to know how current treatment plants work. Current sewage treatment plants can be expensive because they use oxygen-feeding bacteria to break down the waste. To constantly provide oxygen to the bacteria in order to ensure proper functioning, plants need blower motors that are expensive. Set out to solve this challenge, a Bengaluru-resident Tharun Kumar realised that cows had an answer to the problem.
Cows have a powerful digestive system made up of four chambers containing bacteria that do not need oxygen. As grass passes through these chambers, the bacteria break it down into smaller parts eventually converting it to gas, nutrients, water, and waste.
Kumar and his team developed a treatment plant to mimic this structure and used the bacteria from cow dung to break down the waste in wastewater. Their plants do not even require power. Instead, they use gravity to move wastewater across chambers. In the treatment plant, the further wastewater travels, the cleaner it gets. Eventually, the solid waste settles down, and the wastewater is converted into gas and clear water, which can be safely reused.
“Since inception, we have saved 280 million litres of water and have saved 315 MW of power which is equivalent to powering 35 villages for a year,” Kumar, co-founder, and CEO of ECOSTP Technologies told news agency PTI.
The team has been selected by the Museum of Design, Atlanta, to showcase their Zero Power Zero Operator’s sewage treatment technology.