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

An exhausted polar bear wanders the streets of Norilsk, a Siberian city hundreds of miles from its natural habitat. IRINA YARINSKAYA / AFP / Getty Images

An exhausted, starving polar bear has been spotted wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk, Reuters reported Tuesday. It is the first time a polar bear has entered the city in more than 40 years.

Read More Show Less
Bumblebees flying and pollinating a creeping thyme flower. emeliemaria / iStock / Getty Images

It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Aerial view of icebergs on Arctic Ocean in Greenland. Explora_2005 / iStock / Getty Images

The annual Arctic thaw has kicked off with record-setting ice melt and sea ice loss that is several weeks ahead of schedule, scientists said, as the New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sled dog teams pull researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute through meltwater on the Greenland ice sheet in early June, 2019. Danish Meteorological Institute / Steffen M. Olsen

By Jon Queally

In yet the latest shocking image depicting just how fast the world's natural systems are changing due to the global climate emergency, a photograph showing a vast expanse of melted Arctic ice in Greenland — one in which a pair of sled dog teams appear to be walking on water — has gone viral.

Read More Show Less
CAFOs often store animal waste in massive, open-air lagoons, like this one at Vanguard Farms in Chocowinity, North Carolina. Bacteria feeding on the animal waste turns the mixture a bright pink. picstever / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tia Schwab

It has been almost a year since Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolinas, dumping a record 30 inches of rainfall in some parts of the states. At least 52 people died, and property and economic losses reached $24 billion, with nearly $17 billion in North Carolina alone. Flood waters also killed an estimated 3.5 million chickens and 5,500 hogs.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Members of the NY Renews coalition gathered before New York lawmakers reached a deal on the Climate and Communities Protection Act. NYRenews / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Grassroots climate campaigners in New York applauded on Monday after state lawmakers reached a deal on sweeping climate legislation, paving the way for the passage of what could be some of the country's most ambitious environmental reforms.

Read More Show Less
In this picture taken on June 4, an Indian boatman walks amid boats on the dried bed of a lake at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, on the eve of World Environment Day. Sam Panthaky / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Nearly 50 people died on Saturday in one Indian state as record-breaking heatwaves across the country have caused an increasingly desperate situation.

Read More Show Less
A man carries a poster in New York City during the second annual nationwide March For Science on April 14, 2018. Kena Betancur / Getty Images

By Will J. Grant

In an ideal world, people would look at issues with a clear focus only on the facts. But in the real world, we know that doesn't happen often.

People often look at issues through the prism of their own particular political identity — and have probably always done so.

Read More Show Less