Gates Foundation grants U of T engineers $2.2 million for waterless toilet

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Bill Gates with a researcher from the University of Toronto at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle this past August.

Bill Gates with a researcher from the University of Toronto at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle this past August.

A team of engineers from the University of Toronto has been granted $2.2 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so they can continue to work on a waterless, hygienic toilet.

The toilet uses a sand filter and UV disinfection to process liquid waste and a smolder chamber that is similar to that of a charcoal barbeque, to incinerate solid waste that has been flattened and dried in a roller/belt assembly. The engineers hope to have a working prototype by this time next year.

U of T Engineering Professor Yu-Ling Cheng, Director of the Centre for Global Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, says the toilet addresses a pressing need:

“I am very proud of our entire team and the work we have done up to now,” Cheng said. “We have proven that our concept works technically, now we are going to get busy to make sure it will work for the users – some of the 2.6 billion people in the world who do not have access to basic sanitation.” Western toilets, which rely on running water, an extensive sewer network and an expensive processing system, are not suitable for the needs of people in the developing world – many of whom live in places without the infrastructure we take for granted, she said.

The Gates Foundation has committed $370-million to its Future Toilet Initiative. It aims to bring sustainable sanitation what it says is the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe, affordable sanitation.

Today’s investment is not the first the Gates Foundation has made in toilet technology, but it is the largest. In Seattle this past August it hosted a Reinvent the Toilet fair, awarding a $100,000 prize to a winning team from the California Institute of Technology, who beat out 27 other designs.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than one in ten child deaths – about 800, 000 each year – are due to diarrhea.

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