Bill Gates names winners of the reinvent the toilet challenge
Bill Gates recently announced the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge an effort to develop “next-generation” toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it. The awards recognize researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.
California Institute of Technology in the United States received the $100,000 first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity. Loughborough University won the $60,000 second place prize for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water. University of Toronto in Canada won the third place prize of $40,000 for a toilet that sanitizes faeces and urine and recovers resources and clean water. Special recognition and $40,000 went to Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) and EOOS for their outstanding design of a toilet user interface.
One year ago, the foundation issued a challenge to universities to design toilets that can capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price.
The first, second, and third place winning prototypes were recognized for most closely matching the criteria presented in the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.
Teams showcased their prototypes and projects at a two-day event held at the foundation’s headquarters in Seattle on August 14 and 15. The Reinvent the Toilet Fair brought together participants from 29 countries, including researchers, designers, investors, advocates, and representatives of the communities who will ultimately adopt these new inventions.
Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death. Food and water tainted with faecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year. Most of these deaths could be prevented with the introduction of proper sanitation, along with safe drinking water and improved hygiene.
Improving access to sanitation can also bring substantial economic benefits. According to the World Health Organization, improved sanitation delivers up to $9 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested because it increases productivity, reduces healthcare costs, and prevents illness, disability, and early death.
The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) initiative is part of the foundation’s Global Development Program, which addresses issues such as agricultural development and financial services—problems that affect the world’s poorest people but do not receive adequate attention. WSH has committed more than $370 million to this area, with a focus on developing sustainable sanitation services that work for everyone, including the poor.
The foundation also announced a second round of Reinvent the Toilet Challenge grants totalling nearly $3.4 million. The grants were awarded to: Cranfield University (United Kingdom); Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited (India); RTI International (United States); and the University of Colorado Boulder (United States).
Image Credit - Bill Gates with researchers from the Loughborough University in the United Kingdom at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012.