SEATTLE, Washington—These aren’t your typical toilets. One uses microwave energy to transform human waste into electricity. Another captures urine and uses it for flushing. And still another turns excrement into charcoal.
They are part of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation competition to reinvent the toilet for the 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have access to modern sanitation systems for handling the basic and vital need in disposing of bodily waste.
Scientists from around the world have taken up the challenge, and the foundation announced some projects on Tuesday that would be getting more money to take their ideas from the lab to the cities. There, local entrepreneurs are expected to use the newtechnology to turn pollution into cash.
“Toilets are extremely important for public health and, when you think of it, even human dignity,” Gates, the Microsoft cofounder turned global philanthropist, said in a statement launching the “Reinvent the Toilet Fair” in Seattle.
“The flush toilets we use in the wealthy world are irrelevant, impractical and impossible for 40 percent of the global population, because they often don’t have access to water, and sewers, electricity, and sewage treatment systems,” he added.
The toilet fair was described as a swirl of about 200 inventors, designers, investors, partners and others passionate about creating safe, effective, and inexpensive waste management systems.
“We couldn’t be happier with the response that we’ve gotten,” Bill Gates said.