Bill Gates saving the world by reinventing the Toilet

By Albert Angulo

The world’s leading private philanthropist handed a $100,000 prize to the California Institute of Technology on Tuesday for its work on a self-contained, sun-powered system that recycles water and breaks down human waste into storable energy.

Gates is focusing on the need for a new type of toilet as an important part of his foundation’s push to improve health in the developing world.

Open defecation leads to sanitation problems that cause 1.5 million children under 5 to die each year, Gates said, and Western-syle toilets are not the answer as they demand a complex sewer infrastructure and use too much water.

The Microsoft Corp co-founder is looking to change that by sparking new inventions in toilet technology, which he says has not fundamentally changed since the invention of the flush toilet in 1775.

“Imagine what’s possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead,” Gates said at his foundation’s Seattle headquarters on Tuesday.

“Many of these innovations will not only revolutionize sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations.” His foundation announced $3.4 million in new funding on Tuesday for toilet projects being worked on by various organizations, bringing total investment in its “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” to about $6.5 million.

 “Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better,” Gates said. “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.”

Gates is looking to put a stop to this, and one way is through a challenge that was issued last year. His foundation challenged universities to come up with a new commode that would not only be safe, but hopefully would launch a worldwide effort to improve sanitation.

This week, the California Institute of Technology took home the grand prize of $100,000 for it solar-powered toilet that generates hydration and electricity. Coming in second ($60,000) was the United Kingdom’s Loughborough University for its toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals and clean water. Third place ($40,000) went to the University of Toronto for its toilet that sanitizes feces and urine, all while recovering resources and clean water.

If Gates has anything to do with it, this is only the beginning for the toilet revolution. “Imagine what’s possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead,” Gates said.

“Many of these innovations will not only revolutionize sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.