Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

U of T Accepts Bill Gates’ Challenge to Build a Better Toilet


There are 2.6 billion people in the world who don’t have access to safe and affordable sanitation.

Time to think outside the bowl. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge recently awarded The U of T Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering nearly $400,000 to build a more environmentally friendly toilet.

“Those of us in the West don’t give toilets much thought. But there are 2.6 billion people in the world who don’t have access to safe and affordable sanitation, said Professor Yu-Ling Cheng of the U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry.

“The result is the prevalence and spread of water-borne diseases like dysentery and cholera. Lack of clean drinking water is important,” said Cheng. “But the lack of a way to safely deal with human waste is even more pressing.”

The toilet of the future must use no running water, no sewerage system, and no electricity. It also must be self-contained. And it must give back: human waste goes in; clean water, carbon dioxide, mineral ash (for fertilizer) and energy comes out, in about 24 hours.

It also can’t flush money away. It must cost only five cents per user, per day.

“It is a developing world problem,” said Cheng, “but, really, if we could make a toilet that didn’t require water, sewerage and power, and we add a splash of First World stylishness, who wouldn’t want to use it in Toronto.”

Schools mentioned: University of Toronto

Ryan Leclaire
Author: Ryan Leclaire
Ryan has been writing for 7 years and has been featured in Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Cottage life.
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