Bill Gates Looks to Flush Old Toilet Design, Develop More Efficient Models
August 15, 2012 12:40 PM
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(Source: Warner Bros Pictures)
Bill Gates at the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge"
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
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.
The Gates Notes
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A "stop" lever
8/20/2012 6:22:14 AM
There are low-tech ways to address the issue of flush water wastage, at least in the developed world, where we are responsible for most of the world's woes.
Here in Europe, many toilet tanks have a flush lever which allows one to cut off the flush when sufficient water has been used to do the job, i.e., to flush urine requires much less water than to flush feces.
I was taught, "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down."
Also, many men refuse to use a urinal, but opt for a conventional toilet in a stall, which usually lacks an efficient flush mechanism.
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