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Bill Gates names winners of the 'Reinvent the Toilet' challenge
Bill Gates has 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 recognise 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 US received the $100,000 first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity, while Loughborough University in England 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 sanitises faeces and urine and recovers resources and clean water. Special recognition and $40,000 went to Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology) and EOOS for their outstanding design of a toilet user interface.
As reported in Cleanzine just over a 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 recognised for most closely matching the criteria presented in the Reinvent the Toilet challenge.
Teams are showcasing their prototypes and projects at a two-day event held at the foundation's headquarters in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The Reinvent the Toilet Fair is bringing together participants from 29 countries, including researchers, designers, investors, advocates, and representatives of the communities who will ultimately adopt these new inventions.
"Innovative solutions change people's lives for the better," says Foundation Co-chair Bill Gates. "If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world's toughest problems."
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 Organisation, 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.
Other projects featured at the fair include better ways to empty latrines, user-centred designs for public toilet facilities and insect-based latrines that decompose faeces faster.
"Imagine what's possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead," challenges Bill Gates. "Many of these innovations will not only revolutionise sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations.
"All the participants are united by a common desire to create a better world - a world where no child dies needlessly from a lack of safe sanitation and where all people can live healthy, dignified lives."
The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene initiative is part of the foundation's Global Development Programme, 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 England, Eram Scientific Solutions Private (India); Research Triangle Institute (US); and the University of Colorado Boulder (US).
Cranfield University's grant of almost $810,000 will help develop a prototype toilet that removes water from human waste and vaporizes it using a hand-operated vacuum pump and a cleverly-designed membrane system. The remaining solids are turned into fuel that can also be used as fertilizer. The water vapour is condensed and can be used for washing, or irrigation.
Eram Scientific Solutions' grant of more than $450,000 will make public toilets more accessible to the urban poor via the eco-friendly and hygienic 'eToilet'.
Research Triangle Institute's $1.3 million grant will fund the development of a self-contained toilet system that disinfects liquid waste and turns solid waste into fuel or electricity through a revolutionary new biomass energy conversion unit.
University of Colorado Boulder's grant of almost $780,000 will help develop a solar toilet that uses concentrated sunlight, directed and focused with a solar dish and concentrator, to disinfect liquid-solid waste and produce biological charcoal (biochar) that can be used as a replacement for wood charcoal or chemical fertilizers.
Picture shows: A prototype of a toilet designed by researchers from the California Institute of Technology (c)Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Michael Hanson
16th August 2012