Scientists working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are researching the many different ways human waste can be put to good use — such as powering electrical current with human excrement, or purifying urine into drinking water.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has morphed into the world’s best-known philanthropist, wants to reinvent the toilet.
This next big idea for the good of mankind will now also be getting help from German taxpayers after Development Minister Dirk Niebel earmarked $10 million for a joint project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the next five years, this project aims to provide 800,000 people in Kenya with access to sanitation facilities, and ensure clean drinking water for 200,000.
The goal is to find “innovative solutions” for sanitation in poor urban areas. Gates says it’s time to move on from the era of the classic toilet. He points out that, despite all the recent achievements, 40% of the world’s population, or some 2.5 billion people still live without proper means of flushing away excrement. But just giving them western-style toilets isn’t possible due to the world’s limited water resources.
Reinventing the toilet: Gates Foundation launches new sanitation strategy and grants
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the launch of their new sanitation strategy and US$ 42 million in new sanitation grants at the 2011 AfricaSan 3 conference in Kigali, Rwanda on 19 July 2011.
“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”, said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s Global Development Program. “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”.
The new sanitation grants include US$ 3 million for eight university winners of the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge, US$ 8.5 million for USAID’s WASH for Life initiative, US$ 12 million to the African Water Facility for sanitation pilot projects, US$ 10 million to the Water Services Trust Fund and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for a project in Kenya and US$ 8 million to the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.
The foundation and its partners are working to develop new tools and technologies that address every aspect of sanitation—from the development of waterless, hygienic toilets that do not rely on sewer connections to pit emptying to waste processing and recycling. Many of the solutions being developed involve cutting-edge technology that could turn human waste into fuel to power local communities, fertilizer to improve crops, or even safe drinking water.