Bill Gates held up a jar of human faeces on stage in Beijing on November 6 to highlight the importance of improving sanitation and pitch futuristic toilets. He said that in the streets of few developing countries there is way more of what’s in the jar.
Speaking at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing, he said pointing to the jar “It is a good reminder that in (the jar) there could be 200 trillion rotaviruses, 20 billion Shigella bacteria 100,000 parasitic worm eggs”, as reported by Reuters.
According to the World Health Organization, around 2.3 billion people still do not have access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines.
This effort to reinvent toilets is part of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s crusade against poverty and disease. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s largest private philanthropy organization.
Poor sanitation is responsible for the death of 500,000 children below five years of age and has huge economic consequences- according to The Gates Foundation, 223 billion dollars is lost in the form of health-care costs and lost income every year.
$200 million to reinvent the toilet
As part of “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” launched in 2011, The Gates Foundation has given 200 million dollars to teams of scientists and engineers for developing waterless and sewer-less toilets, reported CNN. The foundation has pledged to spend $200 million more before the futuristic toilets are available for affordable prices.
As part of the challenge, scientists were asked to design toilets with operating cost less than five cents a day, without the need of external electricity or running water.
Bill Gates unveiled one such futuristic toilet at the expo- it does not need water or sewers and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertilizer. Many high-tech toilets were on display in the expo, each with its own specifications but all work by separating liquid and solid waste.
Pointing to the improvements, Gates said “The current toilet simply sends the waste away in the water whereas these toilets do not have the sewer. They take both the liquids and solids and do chemical work on it, including burning in most cases”, reported NBC News. Among the toilets that were on display, some ran on solar and some generated their own power. In addition to killing pathogens, these toilets turned water into something useful. For example– the University of South Florida’s New Generator collects Methane gas for cooking or heating.
The revolution like the PC revolution of the 70s
Bill Gates compared the invention of waterless toilets to developments in computing around the time he founded Microsoft in the mid-1970s.
He said that the next step is to pitch the concept to manufacturers and the market for toilets is expected to be over $6 billion by 2030. He also said that it will take at least a decade before these reinvented toilets reach the masses in the poorest areas.
Gates chose China for the expo- a country which has struggled with clean sanitation. In 2015, Chinese president Xi Jinping recognizing the problem called for a national “toilet revolution”. Being the second-largest economy and the most populous country, there is a huge scope and need for modern high-tech toilets in China.
These high-tech toilets address the problem of poor sanitation, waste, disease and huge water wastage all at once. And hence they can also play a pivotal role in dealing with the most pressing problem humanity has ever faced-Climate Change.
The flush toilets used in the mid-1800s were same as modern-day toilets. There has been no advancement in technology of a thing as basic as sanitation. Almost all the ways in we which address basic human bodily needs have changed- the way we produce food has changed, the way we procure drinking water has changed and even the way we build houses have changed but sanitation technology has more or less remained the same. The Gates Foundation is doing appreciable work by addressing a blind spot in innovation-a work which has the potential of saving billions of dollars and millions of lives.
Also Read: India Worst In The World For The Highest Number Of People Without Basic Sanitation