Bill Gates takes the toilets very seriously. In fact, he is so committed to the cause that he even kicked off the Reinvented Toilet Expo in China and took the veils off of a new toilet that doesn’t need water or sewers, and relies on chemicals for transforming human waste into fertilizer.
During the speech, Gates said, ‘We are all here for one reason: because more than half the world’s population doesn’t have the safe sanitation they need to lead healthy and productive lives.’ Gates also tweeted a video on Monday that detailed his and the mission of his foundation to improve the sanitation for the countries that currently do not possess and are unable to afford the sewer infrastructure require for removal of waste.
He had a jar of feces with him while delivering the keynote in Beijing. He said, ‘You might guess what’s in this beaker—and you’d be right. Human feces. This small amount of feces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs.’ HE had the jar with him on the podium for about ten minutes before removing it.
Poor sanitation is the cause of death of about 500,000 children under the age of five every year and costs about $223 billion a year thanks to the higher health costs and lost productivity and wages. The untreated sewage can also have a negative impact on the surrounding environment. Gates said, ‘Some of the untreated human waste is in unlined pit latrines that contaminates groundwater around people’s homes. Some are collected manually, or by trucks, and is dumped into nearby fields or bodies of water. And some are collected in sewers but never get treated. The point is that we are far from the goal the world set in 2015 of everyone using a safely-managed toilet.’
The expo’s aim in the words of Bill Gates is to ‘launch a new category of innovative, decentralized sanitation solutions that will benefit millions of people worldwide.’ A number of these reinvented toilets are currently undergoing testing in Durban, South Africa. Gates said, ‘Durban is a good place to run these tests because the city is growing fast and many people there don’t have modern sanitation, which means that, even if they have access to a toilet, the waste can get into the environment and make people sick. A typical toilet needs water, but many of the new approaches don’t require any water at all, some of them don’t need electricity either, others run on solar power. All of them remove the pathogens from the waste, and, most importantly, they don’t have to be connected to the sewer system.’