Bill Gates may have given up running Microsoft, but he isn’t taking his retirement sitting down. The software-entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist’s charitable foundation has launched a new initiative aimed at improving the health of the billions of people who have no safe, sanitary way to get rid of their waste.
That’s right, Bill Gates wants to reinvent the toilet.
“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global development program, said in an address at a conference in Kigali, Rwanda, according to a written statement released by the foundation. “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches.”
Forty percent of the world’s population lacks access to flush toilets, and more than a billion people defecate into the open, according to the statement. That’s not only revolting but also tragic. UNICEF estimates that at least 1.2 million children under age five die of diarrhea each year, and contact with human feces is the main cause, Time reported.
Access to toilets could go a long way to preventing these deaths, the statement said.
In addition to preventing diarrhea, better access to toilets could boost school and work attendance of girls and women, who risk embarrassment and sexual assault when they are forced to defecate in the open or use public restrooms.
To jump-start the effort, the foundation is ponying up $42 million in grants aimed at spurring innovation in the “capture and storage of waste.” It will also work with local communities to end open defecation and boost access to “sanitation solutions.”
And the best part about this toilet is that if it clogs, all you have to do is reboot it and it’ll work fine. The downsize is the toilets will be released, but will need constant plumbing patches to keep running which will annoy the heck out of the consumer.