Tags: Toilets, Urinals - water & waterless, Eco management, Plumbing Tools & Equipment, Sterilising, Water efficiency, Design Trends, Climate Change / Sustainability, Disease outbreak / control, Innovation, Research & Knowledge, Water Quality, Africa, North America
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pledging millions of dollars in grants to reinvent the toilet. The foundation's director of water, sanitation and hygiene programs, Frank Rijsberman is looking to change the sanitary conditions of the African nations and boost health in developing countries.
Rijsberman plans to give the 2.6 billion people who don't have access to a flushable toilet a hygienic, safe place to dispose of their waste.
"In cities, people use 'flying toilets'," he explained. "They go on a plastic bag and then throw it in the street, which is not only gross but kids walk around and play, and come into contact with the poop and can develop chronic diarrhoea, which kills more children under the age of five than HIV/AIDS and malaria."
Haiti, where 5,500 people had died from a cholera epidemic, was also referenced as he said the cause was "improperly disposed-of waste" from a UN peacekeepers' base.
The Gates Foundation not only wants to improve access to toilets, it also wants to get away from the flush toilet model that is ubiquitous in the West but isn't a viable solution for poor countries.
"We need to reinvent the toilet. We need to come up with new technology that doesn't put waste into drinking water, doesn't flush it down a very expensive pipe to a waste water treatment plant where we spend lots of money to remove the poop," Rijsberman said.
The Gates Foundation used the AfricaSan conference to announce $US42 million in grants to spur innovations in the capture and storage of waste, and to develop ways to process it into reusable energy and fertiliser.
A waterless toilet, and a system that would microwave faecal matter and turn it into fuel are inventions being investigated.
The foundation says the reinvented toilet must be affordable, costing no more than five US cents a day per person. It also has to be easy to install, use and maintain.
"We have to learn to not think of poop as a nuisance and waste but as a resource that could be recycled at a cost of a few cents a day," Rijsberman said, citing the example of Indian villagers who dry cowpats to use as fuel.
Rijsberman was hopeful that investments in sanitation innovation would produce several new-breed toilet prototypes within a year, with reinvented toilets hitting markets in the developing world in about three years.