A human-waste gold mine: Bill Gates looks to reinvent the toilet

An article in Time Magazine highlights the collaboration between the Gates Foundation and Germany in finding innovative solutions for sanitation in developing countries.

The Head of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene department at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Frank Rijsberman, talls about new ideas for using human excrement. “Human waste could be a real gold mine”, he jokes.

In April 2001, Bill Gates not only met German Development Minister Dirk Niebel but also German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff in Berlin.

In a press conference he told journalists that they didn’t talk politics, but discussed the idea of the “ultimate toilet.”

The Time Magazine article (originally published in Die Welt and translated by Worldcrunch) mentions that Germany has earmarked US$ 10 million for a joint project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Kenya to provide 800,000 people with access to sanitation and clean drinking water for 200,000.

The goal is to find “innovative solutions” for sanitation in poor urban areas. Gates says it’s time to move on from the era of the classic toilet. He points out that, despite all the recent achievements, 40% of the world’s population, or some 2.5 billion people, still lives without proper means of flushing away excrement. But just giving them Western-style toilets isn’t possible because of the world’s limited water resources.

Times mentions two other Gates Foundation sanitation projects. One supports the construction of pit latrines in rural areas and slums without sanitation facilities. The other, in South Africa, is using the urine of 400,000 people to make nitrogenous fertilizer in powder form. A similar albeit high-tech variation is currently being tested by the Society for International Cooperation in Eschborn, Germany, Time Magazine adds.

Both the Gates Foundation and German Development Policy are supporting various ecological sanitation projects.

Related web sites:

Source: Inga Michler, Die Welt / Worldcrunch / Time, 13 Jul 2011

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