Bill Gates Talks about the Future of Toilets

06 November, 2018

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has presented a container of feces to visitors to a trade show in China.

No, not the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. Gates is at the "Reinvented Toilet" Expo in Beijing to discuss developing a safe process to remove human wastes.

"You might guess what's in this beaker — and you'd be right. Human feces," the Microsoft founder told the gathering.

He said, "This small amount of feces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs."

Gates noted that these microbes cause diseases that kill almost 500,000 children under the age of 5 every year.

More than 20 companies and research organizations are showing new toilet technologies at the three-day expo. These include self-contained toilets, a small self-powered waste treatment system called the Omni Processor and other inventions.

Visitors look at a model of a self-contained toilet at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
Visitors look at a model of a self-contained toilet at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation presented its own idea for a future toilet that does not require water. Instead, it uses chemical to turn human waste into fertilizer. There are several designs of the toilet but all work by separating liquid and solid waste.

"The current toilet simply sends the waste away in the water, whereas these toilets don't have the sewer. They take both the liquids and solids and do chemical work on it, including burning it in most cases," Gates told Reuters. He compared the development of waterless toilets to that of personal computing in the mid-1970s.

The researchers are planning to show the waterless toilets to manufacturers. Gates said he expects that a more than $6 billion market for the toilets will develop by 2030.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent more than $200 million since 2011 to support research and development of safe sanitation technology.

Across the world, UNICEF estimates that 4.5 billion people suffer a lack of safely operated sanitation systems. The organization says over 480,000 children under 5 die every year from diarrhea. Most of the deaths are in South Asia and African countries south of the Sahara desert.

The Gates Foundation says poor sanitation also cost the world over $200 billion a year in healthcare and lost earnings.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters and Associated press news reports. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

feces - n. solid waste that is released from the body

parasitic - adj. living in or on another animal or plant

toilet - n. a large bowl attached to a pipe that is used for getting rid of body waste

sewer - n. an underground pipe that is used to carry off water and sewage

sanitation - n. the process of keeping places free from dirt, infection, disease, etc.. by removing waste, trash and garbage