The billionaire philanthropist is well-known for his humanitarian efforts. And his newest project? Well, it’s a toilet.
Don’t let that fool you, this toilet is actually crazy exciting. It transforms waste into fertilizer and does not require water or sewers.
He kicked off the Reinvented Toilet Expo in China to unveil his new toilet.
“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 said in his speech.
He and his foundation are on a mission to improve sanitation for countries that do not have or cannot afford to build the sewer infrastructure to remove waste.
To really make a point about the importance of safe sanitation, he brought a jar of feces with him during his keynote speech.
“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 explained.
He kept the jar on the podium for nearly 10 minutes before removing it.
“Some of the untreated human waste is in unlined pit latrines that contaminates groundwater around people’s homes,” he continued during his speech. “Some is collected manually, or by trucks, and is dumped into nearby fields or bodies of water. And some is collected in sewers but never gets treated. The point is that we are far from the goal the world set in 2015 of everyone using a safely-managed toilet.”
Several of these “reinvented toilets” are currently being tested in Durban, South Africa.
“Durban is a good place to run these tests because the city is growing fast and many people there don’t have a modern sanitation, which means that, even if they have access to a toilet, the waste can get into the environment and make people sick,” he explained in a video. “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.”
The next step for the project is to pitch the concept to manufacturers. He estimates that the market for the toilets will be more than $6 billion by 2030.