In Depth

Bill Gates backs poo revolution

Billionaire philanthropist is spearheading efforts to find lavatory solutions for the world’s poorer nations

Microsoft founder Bill Gates brandished an unusual prop this morning as he announced his backing of initiatives to revolutionise sanitation in poorer nations - a jar of human faeces. 

The billionaire philanthropist’s stunt marked the opening of the three-day Reinvented Toilet Expo in China, a showcase event for hi-tech lavatory products, The Sunday Times reports. 

Gates pointed to the jar on the table in front of him and said: “In places without sanitation, you have got way more than that. 

“And that’s what kids when they are out playing, they are being exposed to all the time, and that’s why we connect this not just with quality of life, but with disease and death and with malnutrition.” 

Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed in excess of $200m (£153m) to fund the research and development of sanitation systems for developing countries, says US-based ABC News.

The resulting solutions are being displayed at the expo in Beijing, with exhibits from more than 20 companies and academic institutions. The ideas are being hailed by Gates as the “most significant advances in sanitation in nearly 200 years”, the news site reports.

The products include self-contained lavatory systems that don’t need to be connected to a sewage network to function. 

Gates hopes these efforts to revolutionise sanitation technology will help lower the cost of lavatory systems. Each year, poor sanitisation costs the world roughly $200bn (£153bn) in healthcare expenses and is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of half a million children under the age of five.

“It’s no longer a question of if we can reinvent the toilet and other sanitation systems”, Gates told the BBC. “It’s a question of how quickly this new category of off-grid solutions will scale.”

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