Tuesday, at a conference in Rwanda, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a program aimed at “reinventing the toilet,” and providing $41.5 million in grants to create and test new approaches to improve sanitation in the developing world.
“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,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s global development program, said in a statement.
“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 Gates Foundation is working closely with scientists from Intellectual Ventures, a Washington-based company, to explore potential solutions which could include new designs for toilets, new uses for human waste as fuel, and related projects.
Reinventing the Toilet Challenge ($3 million to 8 universities)
In one project that received funding, a team from Stanford University proposed building a system in Nairobi that would turn human waste into a charcoal used for carbon capture and storage and would process 2 tons of waste daily.
A team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) aims to construct a functioning model of a toilet that turns urine into water for cleansing.
Andrew Cotton, from Loughborough University in Britain, is making a toilet that will “recover water and salt from feces and urine.
Georgios Stefanidis, from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, is working on a toilet that will generate electricity from waste, which will be “gasified into plasma” using microwaves and be used to generate electricity.
Yu-Ling Chen, from the University of Toronto, is trying to make a toilet that will “sanitize feces within 24 hours” so human waste doesn’t transmit disease through a community. Chen plans to use a process of dehydration, filtration and smoldering to render the waste harmless.
Michael Hoffmann, from the California Institute of Technology, plans to develop a solar-powered toilet. Solar cells generate enough power to process waste and turn it into fuel for electricity.
WASH for Life
The foundation is providing $8.5 million, to use USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program to identify, test, and help scale evidence-based approaches to delivering water, sanitation, and hygiene services to the poor. http://www.usaid.gov/div/washforlife
African Development Bank, African Water Facility
The foundation will provide $12 million in funding for the development of sanitation pilot projects that may include fecal sludge management services in sub-Saharan Africa. The goal is to serve up to 1.5 million urban poor who now lack access to sanitation services. http://www.afdb.org
Water Services Trust Fund and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
The foundation is providing $10 million to support efforts to scale up sustainable sanitation services for up to 800,000 people and water services for up to 200,000 residents in low-income urban areas in Kenya. http://www.wstfkenya.org, www.giz.de
UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education
The foundation is providing $8 million to support efforts to transform the postgraduate water and sanitation education system through an increased focus on solutions that work for the poor and a robust online curriculum to reduce costs and increase accessibility to higher education. http://www.unesco-ihe.org