Nov. 18, 2011 – Building a Better Toilet
Toilets, as most of us know them, haven’t changed much since the 1800s—they use a lot of water, and require an infrastructure that many communities can’t afford. Ira Flatow and guests look at the problem of access to sanitation, and how engineers are making toilets better.
IRA FLATOW, HOST:
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I’m Ira Flatow. Tomorrow is World Toilet Day, and if you have a toilet, that’s a cause for celebration, because more than a third of the world’s population does not. For 2.6 billion people, going to the bathroom is, well, there is no bathroom to go to. People don’t have access to the sanitation and sewer systems that we take for granted here. Without a place to go, people defecate into ditches, waste gets dumped into waterways and diseases spread.
The sponsors of World Toilet Day are trying to change that by bringing attention to the problem. And one sponsor, the Gates Foundation, is challenging engineers to build a better toilet, giving them money to do it. It’s called the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Frank Rijsberman is director of water sanitation and hygiene at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. Dr. Rijsberman is here with us. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.
FRANK RIJSBERMAN: Thank you. Good morning, Ira.
FLATOW: Good afternoon to you. Rose George is author of “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World Of Human Waste And Why It Matters.” She joins us from the BBC in Leeds. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.
ROSE GEORGE: Thank you.
FLATOW: Dr. Jim McHale is vice president of engineering at American Standard Brands in Piscataway, New Jersey. You know they make all those bathroom fixtures, including that famous toilet that seems to swallow everything up on YouTube. Thank you for being with us today, Jim.