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VUNA - Promoting sanitation and nutrient recovery through urine separation (Valorisation of urine nutrients in Africa)

2010 - 2015 • EAWAG, SANDEC, EAWAG-Sandec, Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology


This project developed a system to collect source-separated urine and process it into fertiliser. Collection logistics, treatment technologies, and social and economic assessments of nutrient recovery were some of the activities.


By recovering nutrients from urine in small decentralised reactors, VUNA wants to develop a dry sanitation system, which is affordable for the poor, produces a valuable fertilizer, promotes entrepreneurship and reduces pollution of water resources.

In this collaborative project, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) in Durban, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the Swiss Institutes of Technology Zurich and Lausanne (ETHZ and EPFL) work together to focus on three important aspects:
1. reactor technology
2. network management
3. socio-economic boundaries

"Reactor technology and network management" covers the following aspects:
Reactor Operation
Urine Collection
Performance Modelling

Research looking at “socio-economic” boundaries is done for the “economic feasibility” and social acceptance.

The “economic feasibility” is focussing on:
Understanding how a urine market could operate in Durban
Developing a model which could be adapted for, and implemented in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, and ideally, laying a foundation for the rapid spread of nutrient-incentivised sanitation plans.

In terms of “social acceptance” the VUNA novel environmental technologies will be accompanied by studies, which investigate the socio-cultural perceptions and factors influencing users’ acceptance. In addition the project plant to investigate and monitor the use of urine diverting toilets and urine-derived fertiliser products as well as to develop appropriate educational activities and awareness material. But no results are available yet.

Countries of activity

Location of main activity

Further information

Partners are the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) Services based in Durban

Filter tags

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Europe & Central Asia Fertiliser Food security and productive sanitation Fundamental research and engineering Health and hygiene Operation, maintenance and sustainable services Peri-urban Product design and engineering Resource recovery Specific to one or several countries Sub-Saharan Africa Treatment of wastewater or greywater University, education or research institution Urine Urine diversion dehydration toilets (UDDTs)


Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology

Eawag is a world-leading aquatic research institute. Its research, which is driven by the needs of society, provides the basis for innovative approaches and technologies in the water sector. Through close collaboration with experts from industry, government and professional associations, Eawag plays an important bridging role between theory and practice, allowing new scientific insights to be rapidly implemented.

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Elisabeth von Muench (Elisabeth)

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