Desta will work with Professor Nancy Love and Assistant Professor Krista Wigginton of the environmental biotechnology group. During her visit, Desta’s research will focus on nutrient recovery and pathogen protection from reused waste urine.
Desta’s research touches on a very important topic for Ethiopia and the world. In the United States, most waste is managed in a centralized fashion, meaning that it is collected from across a broad regional space and transported to a large, single facility that treats the waste before returning it to the environment. The vast majority of the U.S. population (over 80%) is served by these type of facilities.
In low resource settings, such as in Ethiopia, the vast majority of the urban population is served by either no services or decentralized services. In the master plan for Addis Ababa, which is currently under development, it is expected that approximately 70% of residents of the city on average will be served by decentralized water services over the next 25 years.
Decentralized services are collected and managed at the building or neighborhood where the waste is collected, and fertilizer residuals are used on food crop grown locally or as a soil amendment. Source separation of urine and feces for management and reuse of resources in waste is expected to be widely used as part of the city’s growth and development plan. Therefore, Dr. Desta’s research plan is well timed to inform the development of safe and productive decentralized waste management strategies in Addis Ababa.