Friday, 12 Jul 2024

Bill Gates unveils waterless toilet that turns human waste into fertiliser

The billionaire philanthropist was speaking at the three-day Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Tuesday.

The toilet, which is the brainchild of research projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is ready for sale after years of development.

Mr Gates’ foundation has committed roughly $200m (£153m) to the project.

The organisation expects to spend the same amount again before the innovation is viable for wide-scale distribution.

There are multiple designs of the toilet but all work by separating liquid and solid waste.

Mr Gates said of the technology: “The current toilet simply sends the waste away in the water, whereas these toilets don’t have the sewer.

“They take both the liquids and solids and do chemical work on it, including burning it in most cases.”

He compared the change from traditional toilets to waterless models as similar to developments in computing around the time he founded Microsoft in the mid-1970s.

Mr Gates added: “In the way that a personal computer is sort of self contained, not a gigantic thing, we can do this chemical processing at the household level.”

Poor sanitation kills half a million children under the age of five every year.

It costs the world more than $200bn (£153bn) a year in healthcare costs and lost income, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mr Gates held up a clear jar of human faeces to highlight the importance of dealing with the issue.

He said: “It’s a good reminder that in (the jar) there could be 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs.”

The former Microsoft chief executive said the next step for the project is to pitch the concept to manufacturers, adding he expects the market for the toilets to be more than $6bn (£4.5bn) by 2030.

His trip comes amid trade tension between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, which have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth billions of dollars.

It is the first time Mr Gates’ foundation has addressed an event in China, where President Xi Jinping is promoting a three-year “toilet revolution” to build or upgrade 64,000 public toilets by 2020 to help boost tourism and economic growth.

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