Quantcast

Bill Gates Unveils Toilet That Transforms Waste Into Fertilizer, Doesn't Require Water or Sewers

Health + Wellness
Microsoft founder Bill Gates speaking during the Hongqiao International Economic and Trade Forum in the China International Import Expo at the National Exhibition and Convention Centre on November 5, 2018 in Shanghai, China. Lintao Zhang / Getty Images

For Bill Gates, toilets are serious business. The billionaire philanthropist kicked off the Reinvented Toilet Expo in China and unveiled a new toilet that does not require water or sewers, and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertilizer, Reuters reported.

"We are all here for one reason: because more than half the world's population doesn't have the safe sanitation they need to lead healthy and productive lives," Gates said in a speech on Tuesday in Beijing.


Gates tweeted a video Monday that described his and his foundation's mission to improve sanitation for countries that do not have or cannot afford to build the sewer infrastructure to remove waste.

To drive home the importance of safe sanitation, Gates brought a jar of feces with him during his keynote in Beijing.

"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," the Microsoft co-founder said.

He kept the jar on the podium for nearly 10 minutes before removing it, the Associated Press reported.

Poor sanitation kills nearly 500,000 children under the age of five annually and costs an estimated $223 billion a year in the form of higher health costs and lost productivity and wages, Reuters reported, citing the information from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The untreated sewage can also negatively impact the surrounding environment.

"Some of the untreated human waste is in unlined pit latrines that contaminates groundwater around people's homes," Gates said in his speech. "Some is collected manually, or by trucks, and is dumped into nearby fields or bodies of water. And some is collected in sewers but never gets treated. The point is that we are far from the goal the world set in 2015 of everyone using a safely-managed toilet."

The aim of the expo is to "launch a new category of innovative, decentralized sanitation solutions that will benefit millions of people worldwide," Gates said.

Several of these "reinvented toilets" are currently being tested in Durban, South Africa.

"Durban is a good place to run these tests because the city is growing fast and many people there don't have a modern sanitation, which means that, even if they have access to a toilet, the waste can get into the environment and make people sick," Gates said in the video.

"A typical toilet needs water, but many of the new approaches don't require any water at all, some of them don't need electricity either, others run on solar power," he added. "All of them remove the pathogens from the waste and, most importantly, they don't have to be connected to the sewer system."

The next step for the project is to pitch the concept to manufacturers, Gates told Reuters. He estimated that the market for the toilets will be more than $6 billion by 2030.

These "reinvented toilets" are powered by solar panels. @BillGates / Twitter

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Cigarette butts are the most-littered item found at beach clean ups. John R. Platt

By Tara Lohan

By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.

Read More Show Less

Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust

By Fran Korten

On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday. SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube screenshot

Seventy Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested outside The New York Times building Saturday as they demanded the paper improve its coverage of the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Explosions and a blaze at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex on June 21. VOA News / YouTube screenshot

A fire broke out at a Philadelphia oil refinery Friday morning, starting with an explosion so massive it was felt as far away as South Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Leeks belong to the same family as onions, shallots, scallions, chives and garlic.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Asian elephants in Bandipur National Park, India. Mike Prince / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

Some of the tiniest creatures in Myanmar benefit from living near the largest species in the area.

Read More Show Less
Design by Lauren Park

By Natalie Butler, RD, LD

Green smoothies are one of the best nutrient-dense drinks around — especially for those with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle.

Read More Show Less
Eucador's Waorani indigenous people celebrated a court ruling against oil extraction on their ancestral lands.

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Alarming headlines regarding the climate crisis often overshadow positive actions taken by citizens around the world, but that doesn't mean they're not happening.

They are, and sometimes with considerable success. DW looks at some civil society victories.

Read More Show Less