Bill Gates Seeks To Reinvent The Toilet

Bill Gates Seeks To Reinvent The Toilet

Jul 20



By Zoe Fox
July 19, 2011

Original Link

The man who revolutionized the personal computer is putting his efforts — and foundation — to revolutionizing toilets. Microsoft founder Bill Gates said he will dedicate $42 million towards reinventing the toilet.

Water hygiene and safe waste disposal are two of the biggest causes of infant mortality in the developing countries. Gates and his foundation hope to create inexpensive toilets to vastly improve the living conditions of millions of people. It may seem like a silly subject but it’s one that could save lives around the 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,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president of the Global Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas.”

The initiative was launched by Burwell on Tuesday in Kigali, Rwanda.

Part of the foundation’s plan is the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge (pdf), which funds research at eight universities around the world to develop a toilet that will turn waste into energy, clean water or nutrients. The solution must be a stand-alone unit without piped-in water, a sewer connection or outside electricity. The foundation partnered with USAID to fix water sanitation as part of the UN’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

Today, 40% of the world’s population does not have access to flush toilets. One billion people defecate in the open. Each year, 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhea, many of which are preventable with improved sanitation.

The foundation is prioritizing convenience and affordability in the solutions it considers. The toilets must be easy to install and cost no more than $0.05 a day to maintain.



  1. I’m so glad to see this being undertaken! Wasted water is such a concern with current toilets. And expense and lack of availability worldwide is something important to address. This seemingly small project could reduce water waste and improve health, comfort and living conditions for half the world.

    It’s good to see Bill Gates putting his fortune towards worthwhile causes. I don’t always share his view of what is a worthwhile cause, but in this case I sure do.

  2. Karl Frederick

    Sounds like a good idea. However the following quote from the article brongs a wry smile:
    “Each year, 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhea, many of which are preventable with improved sanitation.”

    It’s not quite that easy to prevent children by using improved sanitation! It generally requires abstinence or birth control. Oh, you mean the deaths are preventable? Why didn’t you say so?

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