Revolutionary toilets to provide safe sanitation

A toilet that uses little or no water is expected to improve sanitation in the developing world. Last year the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, named after the Microsoft co-founder and his wife, gave grants to eight universities around the world to help create a hygienic toilet that is safe and affordable and can transform waste into energy.

About 2.6 billion people – or 40 per cent of world’s population mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia – lack access to safe sanitation and are forced to defecate in the open.

Open defecation leads to sanitation problems that cause 1.5 million children under five to die each year.

The winner of the Reinvent the Toilet fair was a team from the California Institute of Technology. Professor Michael Hoffman’s design toilet is solar powered, generating hydrogen gas and electricity [EPA]

The designs needed to operate at a cost of no more than five cents a day and would ideally capture energy or other resources.

Other designs submitted included a lavatory that used microwave energy to turn human waste into electricity. Another turned excrement into charcoal, while a third used urine for flushing.

The Toilet Revolution is coming

This week, engineers, philanthropists, media and more from around the world will gather at the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle for the “Reinvent the Toilet Fair,” a $3 million project funded in grants by the Foundation that will showcase revolutionary new toilets that don’t need water, electricity or even a connection to a sewage system.

The goal of the project is to help improve the lives of the 2.6 billion people in the third world who do not have access to a toilet.

Lack of access to proper sewage can expose people to deadly diseases, and as Bill Gates notes on his blog, “we need new ideas to help reduce disease and find new ways to turn crap into valuable stuff, like fuel, fertilizer, and fresh water.”