Gates brings poop to podium, makes point on better toilet technologies

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Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates kick-started a “Reinvented Toilet” Expo in China, where 20 companies and academic institutions are exhibiting new toilet technologies.

He placed a jar of faeces next to him as he spoke and urged the world to evolve and adopt better technologies for the safe disposal of human waste.

“You might guess what’s in this beaker — and you’d be right. Human faeces,” the former CEO of software giant Microsoft said. “This small amount of faeces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs.”

Gates said that such pathogens kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of 5 every year.

The conference showcases designs and technologies ranging from self-contained toilets to a small-scale, self-powered waste treatment plant called the Omni Processor. These included sludge-processing designs that eliminate harmful pathogens and convert bodily waste into clean water and fertilizer.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent over $200 million since 2011 to promote research and development of safe sanitation technology.

Gates said that the reinvented toilet market, which has attracted companies including Japan’s LIXIL Group, could generate $6 billion a year worldwide by 2030.

“I have to say, a decade ago I never imagined that I’d know so much about poop,” he joked. “And I definitely never thought that Melinda would have to tell me to stop talking about toilets and faecal sludge at the dinner table.”

As per estimates by UNICEF, 4.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed sanitation, and that 480,000 children under 5 die every year from diarrhoea.

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