If you have seen "Waterworld," a 1995 film about a dystopian future where the entire world is submerged and Kevin Costner is drinking his own refined urine through a special filter, you probably have some ideas on where wastewater treatment technology is headed. Thankfully, we are not that desperate - except maybe a certain tech billionaire who wants to raise awareness - but with climate change speeding up and a booming population, we are slowly but clearly drifting that way.
Given that water is a basic need for humans - and all life for that matter - global daily production of an estimated 165 billion cubic meters of wastewater is understandable. But the reuse rate, which stands at around 2 percent, is clearly not. So, why is almost 160 billion cubic meters of water lost every day when we have so many wastewater treatment plants around the world? "I think the wastewater treatment systems on the market have evolved in the wrong way," said Enes Kutluca, a young Turkish entrepreneur who has a solid idea on how to fix this problem.
"There's no sustainable wastewater treatment system that is suitable for everyone. People are thinking wastewater treatment is a luxury to have in homes," he added. The 25-year-old environmental engineer has realized that the most commonly used wastewater treatment process we use might not be the smartest one. "We collect all wastewater from all houses with sewage networks, build kilometers of collection pipes and giant wastewater treatment plants. All of these cost millions of dollars and they don't even use the treated water. We just let this usable water flow into seas and oceans. So, I started thinking that collecting wastewater from each house is not the best solution. What if I invent a wastewater treatment system that enables all houses to treat their own wastewater and reuse it again in their homes?" he said.
After years of research and hard work, Kutluca and his colleague, Enver Mısırlı, introduced their game-changing solution to the market. Called Biopipe, it is an environmental take on the future of wastewater treatment technology.
Why and how is Biopipe different?
"Biopipe is the only innovative wastewater treatment system that does not produce sludge and it is patented in more than 55 countries. It is the result of years of research and development that has now become one of the most sustainable, eco-friendly and cost-effective wastewater treatment solutions in the world," he said and added: "Today treatment systems on the market are complicated, expensive and not custom designed. Biopipe has a simple, innovative design, which is based around natural treatment mechanism, and performed inside a pipe with the help of good bacteria without the need for any additional chemicals."
The young innovator sees no harm in admitting that he is inspired by nature. "I started by looking at how nature treats wastewater," he said. "I found out that wastewater is treated naturally by the microorganisms that live on the surfaces of rocks in rivers and streams. This is the best treatment nature has to offer without producing sludge. So, I needed to recreate a river ecosystem in homes. I came up with the idea that I can use pipes and grow microorganisms in the pipes to treat it naturally. I worked on this idea for approximately two years in the garage under my apartment and invented Biopipe."
Those two years were not all rainbows and butterflies either. According to him, the wastewater treatment industry has nearly secluded itself from innovation. With no academic papers to follow, they invented the system by trial and error. "It was difficult to adapt the system for different flow rates. But my team and I worked a lot to anticipate all possible scenarios to find the perfect pipe and microorganisms. Thanks to these efforts, now our oldest working system is five years old and still continues to treat wastewater."
We change the industry's perspective
The team behind Biopipe believes that they did not simply invent a new treatment method, but also offer new perspective to the industry. For centuries, collecting wastewater from houses has worked for humanity; however, with the ever-growing population, traditional methods in many areas are simply not enough and wastewater treatment is not an exception. With a core team located in Istanbul that has members with an average age of 27, Biopipe aims to change the perspective on how the world should deal with wastewater. "With Biopipe, not only homeowners but also governments will save money," Kutluca said. "Our claim is to help countries stop building sewage networks and giant wastewater treatment plants. Instead, people can apply Biopipe to every household so countries can save millions of dollars and reuse billions of gallons of reusable water."
Kutluca and his team trust in their product and believe that, in the short-term, Biopipe will make a huge impact both in Turkey and globally. Their dream is to enable all houses with the ability to treat their own wastewater. But with a young and ambitious team, and several rounds of investment from big players like Metito - the leading provider of total intelligent water management solutions in emerging markets - Biopipe is heading in the right direction. And if Universal Studios ever decides to make a sequel to "Waterworld," this time they might use Biopipe instead of other unpleasant methods.