Bill Gates Funding Creation of 21st Century Toilet
Computer whiz and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the richest individuals on the planet, is helping improve sanitation in many third world countries by helping to fund the creation of the toilet of the future through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
He recently awarded $100,000 in prize money to the California Institute of Technology for its development of a 21st century toilet that is self-contained, powered by sunlight, able to recyle water and transform waste into usable energy.
“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,” Burwell said in her speech at AfricaSan, the third African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene, organized by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). “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.”
Because flush-style Western toilets, which haven’t changed much since first introduced in the 18th century, require plumbing systems and vast amounts of water, the new solar-powered toilet of the future will be more helpful in bringing sanitation to poverty stricken areas around the world.
Sanitation brings substantial economic benefits. According to the World Health Organization, improved sanitation can produce up to $9 for every $1 invested by increasing productivity, reducing health care costs, and preventing illness, disability, and early death. People with access to clean and convenient sanitation services also experience greater dignity, privacy, and security. This is especially true of women and girls, who often miss work or school when they are menstruating and risk sexual assault when they are forced to defecate in the open or use public restrooms.
“Disease caused by unsafe sanitation accounts for roughly half of all hospitalizations in the developing world,” said Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. “This statistic is unacceptable, as is the fact that many decision makers remain reluctant to talk about sanitation, further stigmatizing the topic, and perpetuating a crisis whose solutions are within our reach.”
Gates said that funding a better toilet is part of his overall plan to bring better sanitation and health to developing countries, many of which still have open sewer systems that bring disease and water pollution to area residents.