Home / World News / With poo on a pedestal, billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates reinvents the toilet at China expo

With poo on a pedestal, billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates reinvents the toilet at China expo

Placing a jar of faeces on a pedestal next to him, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates made a plea Tuesday for the safe disposal of human waste as he kicked off a “Reinvented Toilet” Expo in China.

“You might guess what’s in this beaker — and you’d be right. Human faeces,” the former chief executive of software giant Microsoft said.

“This small amount of faeces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs.”

He went on to say that pathogens like these cause diseases that kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of five every year.

More than 20 companies and academic institutions are exhibiting new toilet technologies at the three-day expo in Beijing, from self-contained toilets to a small-scale, self-powered waste treatment plant called the Omni Processor.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $US200 million ($277 million) over seven years to create a “pathogen-killing” toilet that can break down human waste and destroy germs.

The new toilets leave behind clean water and solids that can be used as fertiliser, or disposed of safely outdoors without further treatment, Mr Gates claimed.

The toilets operate off grid, without piped-in water, a sewer connection or outside electricity and can work for less than 70¢ per day. Some of the current prototypes are solar powered, or generate their own energy mechanically.

Visitors look at a model of a self-contained toilet at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing.Visitors look at a model of a self-contained toilet at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing.
Camera IconVisitors look at a model of a self-contained toilet at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing.

More than 20 companies signed up to the sanitation project, including Clear, Eco-San, SCG Chemicals and Eram Scientific Solutions.

Mr Gates, who tasted water made from faeces and said “he would happily drink it every day”, has also invested in a small-scale treatment plant that processes waste from pit latrines, septic tanks and sewers.

“The technologies you’ll see here are the most significant advances in sanitation in nearly 200 years,” he said, according to a text of his prepared remarks.

UNICEF estimates that 4.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed sanitation, and that 480,000 children under the age of five die every year from diarrhoea, primarily in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

There is an economic cost too: Poor sanitation cost the world nearly $US223 billion in 2015, according to a study by Oxford Economics and Japanese toilet maker Lixil.

Gates left the faeces on display for about 10 minutes before removing it, his point made.

AP with The Daily Telegraph

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