Gates is widely-known as one of the most charitable people on the planet. Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he’s helped ensure that millions of families in developing nations have access to vaccines and clean drinking water. Altogether, Gates has donated tens of billions of dollars to charity–and taken in lead role in making sure that the money is put to good use.
His newest project is one that’s sure to elicit a few laughs, but it’s also one that he believes is vitally important.
As many as 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to modern sanitation, resulting in an estimated 1.5 million children dying every year from diarrheal disease. Gates and his organization aim to change that.
He’s put out a call for new toilet designs and some of the initial submissions look really interesting. One toilet captures urine and uses it to assist in flushing, reducing the need for water. Another turns feces into charcoal. Yet another transforms human waste into electricity. The goal is to find the best design–one that doesn’t require unavailable resources (like lots of water) and doesn’t produce disease-causing waste.
So far, $370 million has been committed to reinventing the toilet. You shouldn’t expect to see a futuristic toilet in your bathroom any time soon, but we might not be far off from a time when open defecation (i.e., pooping in the street) is a thing of the past in developing nations.