Bill Gates: «We need to reinvent the toilet»

One of the richest men in the world, the founder of «Microsoft» and the most successful computer genius of our time, Bill Gates has now devoted himself entirely to charity. And as a man who built his business from the start, he prefers to give not the fish but a fishing rod. It is such an amazing story behind the invention - «Omniprocessor» developed on the money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Recently he tasted some water, which has been an excrement five minutes before. Why do we all need this, he tells to grateful readers.

Why do I need to convert wastewater into drinking water and electricity? Because a shocking number of people - something like two billion - use the toilets, the stock of which is not arranged properly and is not being cleared. And some of the people simply defecate outdoors. Their metabolic wastes pollute drinking water, which is then to be consumed by millions of people. And the consequences are devastating: «disease of dirty water» kills about seven hundred thousand children each year, and millions more can't have a normal development - mentally and physically.

If we can develop effective and safe ways of wastewater treatment - including from the products of human activity, if we are able to develop and implement them in mass usage, we can prevent all these deaths and help millions of children grow up healthy.

The Western way of waste diversion device will not work here. It requires a well-developed infrastructure - water treatment plants, kilometers of communications that can't be implemented in poor countries. So, several years ago, my foundation was set to find a suitable solution for this problem.

Our main idea was to reinvent the toilet again! Well, in addition to it to reinvent treatment facilities. The project, which seemed to be ideal for us, was called Omniprocessor. It was designed and built by the Janicki Bioenergy company. Their production is located in Seattle, and I have been there recently - before starting our pilot project in Senegal.

«Omniprocessor» is a safe and secure storage of human excrement. These days, if there's no modern system of drainage, special trucks unload the toilets and then dump it all into the nearest river or ocean. Or - at best – transport excrements to outdated sewage treatment plants that do not have any power and the technical possibilities to clean these drains. In general, no matter wherenever the waste gets, it will find itself in the nearest water source. And if it was brought to «Omniprocessor», then no problem would have arisen. This device operates at such a high temperature (around 1,000 Celsius degrees) that no unpleasant odors arise at all. Emissions of the device fully comply with the standards of the US law.

Before I started acquaintance with «Omniprocessor», I immediately came up with the question: are modern treatment plants equipped with sludge incineration plants? Some plants produce dry pellets, which are then stored in the desert. Some ones burn waste with the help of expensive diesel or other fuels. In general, most of the existing solutions for waste disposal is not suitable for implementation in poor countries.

Our device solves this problem. It produces enough energy with the help of modern steam engine to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it provides the energy for itself and a little of electricity is to be exported. The new «Omniprocessor» model is even more modern than the one that I was showed. It is able to process waste from one hundred thousand people to 86 thousand liters of water and 250 kilowatts of electricity.

If we do it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy provides money to smart people who solve global problems. And they, in turn, create a self-regulating systems. Our fund pays the developer company for work on the idea. And it's really amazing to see how seriously they approached the problem and its solution. The company's founder Peter Janicki visited Africa and India several times to understand the full range of problems with the drainage system in these regions. Now our goal is to make these processors cheap enough so that entrepreneurs in developing countries could invest and start a profitable business of recycling waste.

We still have a lot to learn before we get to that step. Our next action is starting a pilot project in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Here manufacturers will train local people to properly use the processor and help in case of any problems. By the way, engineers can control the operation of the first «Omniprocessor» remotely via a complex system of sensors and webcams.

Reputation of patronage is rather stained: a lot of funds invested in the inventions, which never ever started working. We hope that our steps for implementing the «Omniprocessor» will not fill up this sad list. If the launch is successful in Senegal, we will start actively seeking partners in other developing countries. For example, it would be a great solution for India, which has a lot of entrepreneurs willing to invest in innovative business. In addition, in this country there are companies that could produce components for processors.

Perhaps it will take years until the processor is used widely. But inventors, the family business Janik, really impressed me. And I admire the business model of their invention: the device will not only relieve the water from feces, excrement, but it will turn it into a resource with a fair market value. This is a perfect example of the old expression: It's not waste until you waste it.

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