The Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation Team (WASH) at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) requested a landscape analysis of sensor technologies to track and measure fecal sludge in low and middle-income countries (LMIC). While incredible progress has been made in increasing access to improved sanitation in LMIC, many issues remain related to the safe storage, transport, and processing of fecal sludge. Fecal sludge management is an important part of safe provision of sanitation facilities, however, lacks monitoring and evaluation to confirm the safe disposal of waste. To inform the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals and design better systems to manage waste, data on quantities of fecal sludge being produced and where it goes after removal from septic tanks and latrines is needed. For this project, our team’s objective was to identify technologies to automate counting and tracking of vacuum trucks and other desludging vehicles, quantify the volume of fecal sludge being transported, and measure the solids content of sludge.
To accomplish these goals, we conducted a review of available technologies aided by 25 interviews with experts from academia, the waste management industry, governmental organizations, and NGOs. These interviews were an incredibly rich source of information about innovative technologies and their applications in a variety of settings. We also conducted three site visits, enabling us to see many of the technologies we learned about in our research “in action.”