We all need new and better toilets and we need them now. That’s why this week, the foundation put forth a new call for innovative ideas to reinvent the toilet. Toilet 2.0 will improve sanitation and hygiene, decrease the spread of disease, and improve the lives of millions around the world. This new toilet will no longer depend on the vast amounts of water and infrastructure necessary to maintain traditional sewer systems.
A large share of the solids and liquids we eat and drink are passed on in urine and feces. This human waste contains potentially valuable and recyclable resources such as water, energy, urea, salts, and minerals. It also consists of large amounts of useful, as well as harmful, microorganisms, mostly bacteria and pathogens. If untreated, many harmful and deadly diseases are passed on from person to person through the fecal-oral pathway—as pathogens in one person’s waste end up being ingested by another. It’s unsavory, but a daily reality for the 2.6 billion people living without access to safe and sustainable sanitation.
Beyond the health concerns, the “gold standard” flush toilet we use today depends on expansive sewer networks and wastewater treatment plants. Maintaining these vast systems is expensive even for developed countries. It is very difficult for developing countries to fund the high costs of both infrastructure development and maintenance of these systems. In addition to the cost of infrastructure, huge amounts of water and energy are necessary to keep a sewage system running. Traditional sewage systems treat large volumes of water to drinking water standards, then turn around and use it to flush waste down the drain.
The development of toilet and sanitation technologies that do not have to be connected to a sewer will help end open defecation and unsafe sanitation in rural communities, and ultimately save millions of lives. They will also enable more efficient usage of finite resources like water, energy, and funding for infrastructure.
Here’s our challenge:
Design a stand-alone, self-contained toilet which can intake bodily wastes and swiftly dispose of them without any incoming water piping, outgoing sewer piping, or electric or gas utility services.
We are looking for ideas from all different experience levels and backgrounds. If you have a great idea for the next generation toilet, send us a letter of inquiry between now and May 10, 2012. Do you know someone who might have a great idea? Let him or her know about our challenge. Successful applicants will receive funding for the design and development of their prototype toilet.
Join us in solving one of the biggest health and development challenges of our time!