Bill Gates to Back Waterless Toilet That Generates Energy From Human Waste

Waterless Toilet

Yesterday, March 22nd was World Water Day which was an appropriate time to highlight the fact that more than 2.4 billion people around the world still live in unsanitary conditions. Without access to clean running water, these at-risk communities face life-threatening sanitation-related diseases.  World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.   The day has actually been observed since 1992 when it was first introduced at the United Nations.  Each year, UN-Water — the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation — sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge.  This year the theme was water and jobs.

With that, technological advances in the field of water have been increasing ever since the world was put on notice that its water supply is dwindling.  So those in the field have been clamoring to find ways to not only conserve water but also find ways to convert dirty water to clean water as well as convert waste into energy.  A new company with the backing of Bill Gates is creating something that is mind blowing.  Not only is it a technological advance in the conversion of waste into energy but also in plumbing.  And do you know how expensive toilet use actually is?  Let’s take a look at this figure from a 2014 article from The Simple Dollar:  The total cost for a year’s worth of normal flushing is $10.95.

Now multiply that by the billions of people around the world and you can see what a problem this is.  We’re talking just toilets and waste here.  This doesn’t account for waste in our oceans, environments and countless other places.  This also doesn’t account for the amount of water that is drying up each day or the water that is melting in the arctic.  Get my drift here?  This is merely toilet use by humans.  You can see how major an issue this really is.   This is billions if not trillions of dollars and lives lost if the trend continues.   The answer may lie in a challenge that Bill Gates made five years ago.

Five years after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation first challenged the world to design a sustainable and inexpensive toilet, researchers from Cranfield University may have a viable contender. It’s known as the Nano Membrane Toilet, and it was funded by the Gates Foundation in September 2012 for US $710,000.

Here’s a video that goes into more detail about the toilet.

Alison Parker, a lecturer in International Water and Sanitation at Cranfield Water Science Institute, says her team’s new design is meant to serve poor urban areas, as those will be easiest to accommodate. “It will be very hard to carry out the scheduled maintenance” in remote areas, Parker tells Tech Insider, mostly because the toilet needs maintenance every six months at a minimum to replace certain parts. “Instead, the toilet will be used in dense urban areas where a number of factors make providing good sanitation very challenging, but where it would be possible to facilitate visits from a maintenance technician.”

What’s incredible about the product is the cost effectiveness.  The toilet can accommodate up to 10 people a day at no more than 5 cents per user.  Field testing is going to begin later this year says Parker.  The one challenge going forward is toilet paper.  The toilet doesn’t clean the user all by itself which means the person has to dispose of that paper somewhere.  That might be an issue economically and environmentally.

Still though, it’s a great start to killing two birds with one stone here.  Every time I see advances in toilet technology I can’t help but to think of the movie Demolition Man and the three sea shells.  Sorry I just had to throw that one in there.   It’ll be great to see this toilet come to fruition though.  And might I add how amazing the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is.  With all the greed out there, that these two are basically dedicating so much time and money to make the world a more sustainable place is something to truly be commended for.