If the next world war is fought over access to fresh water, Dyllon Randall will be part of the scientific special forces, on a mission to avoid conflict and prove that “waste is a resource”. More specifically, Randall’s interest lies in establishing novel ways to treat wastewater and recover the useful by-products it holds. Depending on the water source and method employed, these range from phosphorous to gypsum used in walls for low-cost houses. Now a researcher at the University of Cape Town, Randall concentrates on extracting nutrients from sanitation waste for use as inorganic fertiliser. And later this year he heads for Germany’s Technical University of Darmstadt to work on similar processes with potentially vital applications in South Africa. Randall aims to build a pilot scheme based on the water-treatment technology he developed for his PhD. But, as with any battle, he acknowledges “the biggest challenge is to change people’s mind-set”.
— Ian Macleod