Bill Gates

Revisiting Bill Gates and the Eco-Friendly Toilet

Bill Gates

What to do with all that money? What about all that time? Bill Gates, since stepping down at the helm from Microsoft, has focused his efforts large-scale societal issues.

The most recent buzz is Gates will look to focus on open agricultural data. What I still can’t get over and want to revisit is his intent on re-inventing the toilet.

Bill gates, eco-friendly toilet

Surprisingly, approximately 40% of our world population don’t have adequate water and sewage systems.

In the western world we take our sewage systems for granted and should be very grateful that these were established many years ago.

If we couldn’t adequately dispose of our waste then developed countries, like ours, would be a very different place.

It seems highly unlikely that the under-developed world will be able to install the major infrastructure that’s needed to adequately dispose of human waste.

However, with modern technology the old fashioned sewer system isn’t required.

With the deep pockets of Bill Gates and his intentions to tackle this issue, it seems that new eco-friendly toilets that don’t require water or electricity could realistically be in use within the next few years.

Neil Phillips, an expert of home fittings at Sell House Fast company YouSellQuick, says, “Our developed countries don’t realize how lucky we are to have established sewer systems, this stand alone toilet would completely change the lives for millions across the third world.”

It’s sad to know that 1.5 million children alone die each year due to diseases caused by poor sanitation.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been renowned for supporting issues in the third world, and there are more people who die each year from sanitation related diseases then both AIDS and Malaria.

In August 2012, Gates gathered some of the world’s leading scientists and challenged them with his re-invent the toilet competition at around the same time he also pledged an initial $370 million to further develop the winning design.

Eawag - eco-friendly toilet prototype

Eawag, eco-friendly toilet prototype designed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Gates challenged the scientists to design an eco-friendly toilet that doesn’t require electricity, water or a sewage system as well as this the operational costs have to be less than 5 cents a day.

The winners of the competition, scientists and students of  the California Institute of Technology, invented a solution that thoroughly impressed Bill Gates and met the criteria, granting them a first position prize of $100,000.

Prof Michael Hoffman and eco-friendly toilet prototype

Professor Michael Hoffman with the California Institute of Technology’s eco-friendly toilet prototype

The stand alone toilet doesn’t require a sewage system and is powered using solar power. It also generates surplus electricity and creates hydrogen gas from the combination of human waste and solar power.

Technically, this invention has killed two birds with one stone and millions of people should be able to benefit from not only hygienically disposing of their waste, but also the added benefit of being able to use the surplus electricity and hydrogen gas.

Furthermore, the team will continue the design of their eco-friendly toilet alongside Bill Gates and have now become his chosen team of scientists to help fulfill his dream.

Spearheaded by Gates, it now seems realistic that this new form of toilet can effectively make a difference in the world. It could make the difference in the home market.

If all goes well surely this eco-friendly toilet will be one of the most significant inventions that this modern day has seen.

[images via smithsonianmag,]