Bill Gates is getting his hands dirty again, seeking to change the lives of over 2.6 billion people, this time with a toilet – “Toilet 2.0.”
“‘Toilet 2.0’ – that’s right, innovations in sanitation have a big, positive impact for billions w/o access,” Gates tweeted.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to help people lead healthy, productive lives, announced on Tuesday their initiative to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of people in the developing world who don’t have access to safe, reliable toilets.
“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,” Sylvia Matthews Burwell, president of the foundation’s Global Development Program, stated at a sanitation and hygiene conference in Africa.
“But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”
Looking for innovative, efficient, and affordable solutions, with sanitation services costing no more than 5 cents per person per day, the foundation is providing $41.5 million in new sanitation grants for the project.
The new proposed toilets must be easy to install, use and maintain, and also utilize viable eco-friendly options for the developing world.
According to the foundation, current flush toilets required “massive amounts of sewer infrastructure and immense amounts of water – two things increasingly hard to come by,” especially in a poor country.
“You’re not going to build sewers all over the world,” Melinda stated in an interview, according to the Seattle Times. “It’s too expensive.”
Some of the solutions that are currently being developed include waterless toilets that do not rely on sewer connections, and toilets that could turn human waste into fuel to power local communities, fertilizer to improve crops, or even safe drinking water.
The foundation seeks to completely reinvent the capture and storage of waste in a revolutionary way.
“Disease caused by unsafe sanitation accounts for roughly half of all hospitalizations in the developing world,” Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, stated.
“This statistic is unacceptable, as is the fact that many decision makers remain reluctant to talk about sanitation, further stigmatizing the topic, and perpetuating a crisis whose solutions are within our reach.”
One of the United Nations’ 2015 Millennium Development Goals is to reduce half the number of people who don’t have access to basic sanitation.
One billion people still practice open defecation, according to the World Health Organization, which contributes to a number of diseases that lead to nearly 1.5 million deaths of children each year – largely preventable by proper sanitation.
Having access to safe sanitation is reported to reduce child diarrhea by 30 percent and significantly increase school attendance as well.
In many developing countries, people were still using “flying toilets,” Frank Rijsberman, director of the foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program, shared with ZeeNews.
“They go on a plastic bag and then throw it in the street, which is not only gross but kids walk around and play, and come into contact with the poop and can develop chronic diarrhea, which kills more children under the age of five than HIV/AIDS and malaria.”
Proper sanitation would not only reduce chronic illnesses and death but also bring substantial economic benefits to the world.
According to the World Health Organization, improved sanitation can produce up to $9 for every $1 invested by increasing productivity, reducing health care costs, and preventing illness, disability, and early death.
“We need to reinvent the toilet,” Rijsberman emphasized. “We have to learn to not think of poop as a nuisance and waste but as a resource that could be recycled at a cost of a few cents a day.”
“Now is the time to eliminate the health hazards, recycle waste and turn crap into valuable resources, like clean burning fuel, fertilizer, and believe it or not fresh water,” the foundation stressed.
“Today our toilets can’t do that, but the toilet of tomorrow can.”
New investments announced on Tuesday include: $3 million grant to universities challenging students and professors to develop a stand-alone toilet without piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity for less than 5 cents a day; $17 million to U.S. Agency for International Development; and $12 million to the African Development Bank and African Water Facility for development of sanitation pilot projects.
Some ideas proposed for the toilet challenge include developing a toilet that could produce biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water, turning the toilet into an electricity generator, and building a solar-powered toilet that could generate hydrogen and electricity for local use.