Bill Gates and his foundation are feeling unsettled about the boring old toilet and the way it just… flushes. So the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a challenge to transform the run-of-the-mill waste receptacle and make it better.
Dangling the bait of $41.5 million worth of grants is pretty good way to get designers to update the normal porcelain pot, which we all started using in our privies in the 1700s, reports CNN.
“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s global development program, said in a statement. “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”
One important factor in reinventing the toilet, is that the way it flushes now, it’s too expensive for those in developing countries who might not be hooked up to a sewer system or have access to water.
Around 2.5 billion people in the world don’t have any way to get to a toilet. That inability to access a flushing commode contributes to the spread of diarrheal diseases, says the World Health Organization.
The Gates Foundation has given out eight grants so far to universities to aid them in remaining the toilet. Those universities are expected to come up with working prototypes within a year.
A few ideas from grantees include a way to “recover salt and water from feces and urine” as well as one that will generate electricity from gasified waste using microwaves.
Sure we’re talking about poo here, but it all sounds kinda neat regardless.