A team of five students from Ghana, Costa Rica, and the United States recently won a US$5,000 prize for developing a model to turn waste into sustainable fertilizer for rural farmers.

The team, Pellet Group, was one of three groups awarded the 2020 Wege Prize, a competition among college students to develop affordable, environmentally-sustainable products or systems. Their entry, Pellet, outlines a plan to recycle waste into organic fertilizer in Sub-Saharan communities. The project aims to cut costs for farmers, restore soil health, and ensure proper waste management.

Pellet Group has already developed its prototype at EARTH University in Costa Rica. By early 2021, the team plans to start production in three Gabo District communities in Rwanda.

“We decided to start this project in Rwanda because it is our motherland and it is where this solution is needed [more] than anywhere else,” Elias Kagabo, the CEO of Pellet Group, tells Food Tank.

Many Rwandan farmers rely on expensive and often unaffordable, imported fertilizers. These fertilizers are also inorganic, so they degrade soil and contaminate water runoff.

Compounding the problem, waste in the Gasabo District is often poorly disposed of, making way for toxic—and sometimes deadly—pathogens that leach into groundwater. In the next decade, researchers expect waste in the area to increase by 63 percent.

Pellet Group aims to address these issues simultaneously by turning community waste into affordable, organic fertilizer. To do so, the team will deliver recycling bins to homes, restaurants, marketplaces, and farms. They will then collect the waste, dry it, to kill off any bacteria or fungi, and convert it into organic fertilizer pellets.

Read the full article about college students recycle sustainable fertilizer by Amy Martin at Food Tank.