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From PC to WC: Bill Gates and the toilets of tomorrow

Posted on 14 October 2014.

40% of the world population does not have access to decent toilets. To find a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to the problem, the Gates Foundation launched the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge".

Every year, 1,5 million children die from diseases because they don’t have access to decent toilets.

Billionaire Bill Gates, known worldwide for his computer software, has only one thing in mind: inventing the toilet of the future. For Mr. Microsoft, lack of access to toilets creates "both an economic and public health burden in poor communities." Which is why since 2011 his foundation has been subsidizing the most ambitious eco-toilet projects. Transforming feces into charcoal, electricity and even into animal feed using fly larvae... Seems unlikely? Perhaps, but these projects were all presented as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC) run by the Gates Foundation to reward the best toilet innovations around the world.

The challenge is not an easy one - especially since the criteria set by the foundation are very demanding. In order to receive grants under the RTTC, among other things the toilets have to reduce energy consumption, eliminate bacteria from human waste, and most importantly operate outside the traditional networks – which means without using water or electricity. In addition, these new generation toilets should cost no more than 0.05 dollars (about 4 euro cents) per person per day to run.

During the last Reinvent the Toilet Fair, which was held in March 2014 in New Delhi (India), Loughborough University (UK), winner of the 2012 competition, presented its toilet prototype, which uses a process called "hydrothermal carbonization" that destroys pathogens in human waste and produces the energy it needs to operate. These self-sufficient toilets also produce drinking water, fertilizer, salt… all from human excrement! No doubt these toilets of the future will create a buzz during the World Toilet Day on 19 November.

Presentation of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge
Copyright : Gates Foundation

For more informations:

- “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” on the Gates Foundation website
- Loughborough University wins « Reinvent the Toilet » award from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in India
- Rosa George’s Ted Talk: “Let's talk crap. Seriously.”
- Bill Gates names winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge