Gates Foundation sponsors toilet innovation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is sponsoring a major initiative on sanitation technology (toilets) for developing countries and perhaps ultimately for developed countries as well.  This week a Reinvent the Toilet fair was held in Seattle to showcase some of the new designs that inventors have come up with.

GallonDaily commends the Foundation for its work in this field for a number of reasons that may have equally valuable relevance to other product categories:

  • who knew, or at least had thought about the fact, that most of the world needs an environmentally improved toilet?
  • who had considered that our current ‘Thomas Crapper’ toilets, even with a six litre flush, use vast amounts of water that does not exist in many parts of the developing world?
  • who had thought about the fact that even pit toilets contaminate ground water and spread disease when used in densely populated cities, towns, and villages?
  • why were we not considering that human waste can be used to generate electricity and hence provide community residents with light and communications that are otherwise not readily available to them.

No doubt there are all kinds of other products that we should be greening but about which we are not yet thinking.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made addressing the sanitation issue one of its top priorities. Grants have been given for:

  • A toilet that produces biological charcoal,  minerals, and clean water.
  • Turning the toilet into an electricity generator for local use.
  • A urine-diverting toilet that recovers clean water on site.
  • A community bathroom block that mineralizes human waste and recovers clean water, nutrients, and energy.
  • A community scale biochar production plant fed by human waste.
  • A toilet that uses mechanical dehydration and smoldering of feces to recover resources and energy. (This is the one technology proposal from Canada (University of Toronto) that is being funded.)
  • A solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity for local use.
  • A pneumatic flushing urine-diversion dehydration toilet.

Details of these ‘upstream technology’ (toilet) reinvention projects are at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/watersanitationhygiene/Documents/wsh-reinvent-the-toilet-challenge.pdf

A full description of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation work on water, sanitation and hygiene is at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/watersanitationhygiene/Pages/home.aspx

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