Ashley Murray, founder and director of Waste Enterprisers in Ghana, has been awarded US$ 10,000 by National Geographic’s 2011 Emerging Explorers Program. The program recognises promising young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers.
In their commendation, National Geographic wrote:
Ashley Murray is working to revolutionize the way the world thinks about waste, but rather than pointing to public health or the environment, she’s motivating governments and the sanitation sector with a persuasive new argument: dollars and cents.
Instead of relying on user fees to finance waste management in ow income areas in Ghana, Murray “wants to capture the inherent economic value of waste itself, and use the profits to help pay for sanitation”.
The company that Murray set up set up, Waste Enterprisers, owns, and operates waste-based businesses.
Each business relies on human waste as its primary input, makes a profit from reusing it, then ploughs a portion of those profits back into providing sanitation for the poor. “What’s novel about our approach,” she stresses, “is that we show how waste can bring money back into the sanitation sector. That’s why I registered Waste Enterprisers as a for-profit company. I wanted to highlight that sanitation is a business and that it can be profitable.”
The group operates a commercial fish farm in one of Ghana’s government-owned wastewater treatment plants.
Catfish are stocked and harvested in the last phase of the facility’s waste stabilization pond system. “This plant never had a revenue stream because it serves a community that doesn’t pay user fees,” Murray notes. “As a result, maintenance was always limited and haphazard. Our fish farm supplies a new, reliable revenue source that will ultimately pay for the full-time groundskeeper we’ve hired.
Waste Enterprisers is collaborating with a consortium of research organisations to test using fecal sludge as an industrial fuel. The project includes a demonstration at a cement factory in Dakar, and it is funded by SPLASH.
In addition, Ashley Murray is the co-Principle Investigator, with Kartik Chandran of Columbia University, on a project to develop a technology for converting fecal sludge into biodiesel along with an accompanying social enterprise model. They were awarded US$ 1.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will work closely with Moses Mensah at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to implement the project in Ghana.
Besides being CEO of Waste Enterprisers, Ashley Murray is a Research Consultant for the International Water Management Institute-Ghana (IWMI). She received her PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and she holds a MS from Berkeley in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
To learn more about Ashley Murray see her Linkedin profile.
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Source: National Geographic, 17 May 2011