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  (Source: Warner Bros Pictures)

Bill Gates at the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge"  (Source:
An event called the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" is in Seattle this week, where Gates awarded prizes to teams that created new toilet designs

Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates wants to change current toilet designs around the world in order to not only increase efficiency, but also provide alternatives to poor nations without access to water.
Gates recently awarded prizes to three teams at an event in Seattle, Washington called "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge." Scientists, inventors, designers and students enrolled in the challenge, which asked that they create a toilet design that strays from the traditional flush toilet. 
Here's the problem with flush toilets: in the developed world, these toilets use 10 times more than our required daily amount of drinking water. A new, efficient toilet is needed in order to conserve our fresh water so that it can be used for more important reasons.
In developing countries, most people don't even have access to a flush toilet because the system is either too expensive or they do not have access to water, sewage treatment systems or electricity. In fact, there are 2.5 billion people around the globe that do not have a method for safe sanitation, and 1 billion of those still relieve themselves out in the open outdoors. Another billion use pit latrines. 
This is problematic for a couple of reasons, but the most important being health. People openly defecating in public where the waste is left can lead to the spread of disease. Gates said that diarrheal diseases caused by food and water contaminated by fecal matter kills 1.5 million children annually. 
Safety is another issue -- especially for women. Those who have to urinate or defecate out in the open (especially at night) are at risk for assault. 
Human dignity is a huge factor in the need for new toilet designs, too. No human being in developed countries could likely see themselves having to drop their pants outdoors and use the bathroom in front of everyone (this assumption excludes those drunken parties you attended in college). The developed world is used to having closed, individual bathrooms -- and developing countries deserve the same. 
This is where the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" comes into play. Gates gave three teams prizes for coming up with novel ideas. The first place team hails from the California Institute of Technology in the U.S., and developed a solar-powered toilet that creates electricity and hydrogen. The second place team, from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, created a toilet that generates clean water, minerals and biological charcoal. The third place team, from the University of Toronto in Canada, made a toilet that cleans feces and urine while recovering clean water and other resources. 
The "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" is being held this week. 

Source: The Gates Notes

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i don't get this
By Ammohunt on 8/15/2012 1:51:17 PM , Rating: 2
People taking a dump in the street vs providing an outhouse design(which worked for thousands of years by the way) is a problem with toilet design? How about addressing the "defecate wherever i feel like it" problem with these cultures and provide public outhouses.

In the middle east an other non western countries they use what i call squat holes( a ceramic hole with two footpads next to it) it is the most sanitary since no part of your body comes in contact with the toilet and uses little water.

RE: i don't get this
By Dr of crap on 8/15/2012 2:23:52 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed - if these places can't build their own out houses - too freaking bad.

We have been digging holes and building out houses for many many years, but now we NEED a toilet?? You've heard of two holer houses, just put up a wall inbetween!

If it's ok with the society for anyone to crap on the side of the road out in public, then keep you nose out of it?

RE: i don't get this
By Brandon Hill on 8/15/2012 2:24:27 PM , Rating: 3
And you should know, you're a Fecal Doctor ;)

RE: i don't get this
By Azethoth on 8/21/2012 4:44:16 AM , Rating: 2
Ah yes, for further study I present the squat-toilet & shower combo with dark blue hand / butt cleaning system.

RE: i don't get this
By Ammohunt on 8/15/2012 2:43:03 PM , Rating: 2
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

This is my favorite part of the article..ever seen some the older military latrines? just rows of toilets; privacy what the hell is that?

RE: i don't get this
By DennisB on 8/15/2012 3:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is population growth and poisoning.
Without infrastructure there's no way to clean up things.
And over time lead poisoning will occur.

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