Toilet is a need-to-reinvent Katha for Bill Gates

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 07, 2018 13:13 hrs
Bill Gates

In the next ten years if you happen to see your commode get a version upgrade, you must know who to thank for. Obviously the researchers behind a newer design. But dont forget to remember Bill Gates for the seriousness on the need for a change in design.

The world's richest technocrat and the third richest thinks the Toilet is serious business. So serious that he came prepared with a jar containing human waste to kickstart an expo in China.

400 curious onlookers were stumped when Gates said, "You might guess what's in this beaker - and you'd be right. Human feces,"

"This small amount of feces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs," added the former CEO and Founder of software major Microsoft Inc.

With $200 million spent on funding research in the past seven years, Mr. Gates sure knows what he is talking about and the compelling need to convert human waste into something valuable. A UNICEF data says 4.5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe-sanitation while 480,000 children under the age of 5 died every year from diseases such as diarrhea (primarily in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa).

The foundation had announced a grant of $5 million for sanitation related projects in China.


Source: Associated Press. Bill Gates at an expo in China pointing to a beaker containing human waste.

The philanthropist billionaire thinks that with growing population tackling human fecal sludge and sanitation are great challenges. Sanitation not only has health benefits but also offers economic benefits. A World bank report says that for every dollar spent on treating sanitation, the returns are $5.50.

The thought to reinvent Toilet struck Gates about a decade ago, and since then he has been closely watching the sector for newer research and innovation. He shared with Bloomberg that he had never imagined that he'd know so much about poop. So obsessed was he with re-innovating Toilet that Melinda, his wife, had to remind him to stop talking about toilet during dinner.

The 63 year old Gates believes that more advances have been made on Toilet' design recently than in the past 200 years.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have worked with some of the most innovative technocrats in sanitation-technology. However, Bill lent praise for researchers from the California Institute of Technology. Researchers from the institute used an electro-chemical reactor to break down human excreta into fertilizer and hydrogen. The latter could be used in hydrogen cells as fuel.

According to Gates, the operational cost of a re-invented toilet works out to about $.0.05 per user per day. Five cents at the current exchange rate of Rs 73 per dollar works out to Rs 3.65. Gates said that the first application would be schools, apartment buildings and community centres. As adoption increases, and costs of production get controlled by economies of scale and mass-production.

The Chinese Expo surprisingly had two Indian companies too- Trivandrum based Eram Scientific Solutions and Vadodara based Ankur Scientific Energy.

In December 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation was backing a revolutionary waterless toilet. Cranfield Water Science Institute's researchers were backed by the foundation for their concept- a waterless toilet. Nano-membranes would filter the sludge and turn them into ash, while the wet-waste was used for gardening.

Take a look at this video of the waterless toilet looks like:

Alison Parker, a lecturer from the institute was quoted as saying by media reports back then that the design was to serve poor urban areas. The toilet designed by the institute also conformed to the foundation's criteria- cost of $0.05 per day per user.

Gates and his wife Melinda have contributed close to $35.8 billion to their foundation since 1994.

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