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Bill Gates Wants To Reinvent the Toilet 338

Posted by Soulskill
from the flush-with-ideas dept.
redletterdave writes "Bill Gates, the man responsible for bringing software to the masses with Microsoft and Windows, has plans to reinvent and popularize another industry: Sanitation. Gates, whose philanthropic efforts have helped bring clean water and resources to developing countries via the foundation created by he and his wife Melinda, said at the 'Reinvent The Toilet Fair' in Seattle on Wednesday that he plans to build a toilet that's better suited to developing countries in an effort to cut down on disease and death in those regions. 'Inventing new toilets is one of the most important things we can do to reduce child deaths and disease and improve people's lives,' Gates said. 'It is also something that can help wealthier countries conserve fresh water for other important purposes besides flushing.'" Science Insider has some information on the winning designs from this year.
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Bill Gates Wants To Reinvent the Toilet

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  • Reason: (Score:5, Funny)

    by Niris (1443675) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:09PM (#40999311)
    So we have something new for Windows 8 to go down.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:11PM (#40999333)

    he's spent all these years making crap.

  • can't wait to see for the BSOD on that.

  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by juanfgs (922455) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:14PM (#40999345) Homepage

    plans to build a toilet that's better suited to developing countries

    toilet starter edition...

  • iPoop (Score:5, Funny)

    by InvisibleClergy (1430277) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:16PM (#40999381)

    I'm just going to wait for Apple's competing product. The toilet is a perfect example of an Apple product. It has one button, one function, and it needs to be clean and durable.

    • Re:iPoop (Score:5, Funny)

      by wild_quinine (998562) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:22PM (#40999469) Homepage

      I'm just going to wait for Apple's competing product. The toilet is a perfect example of an Apple product. It has one button, one function, and it needs to be clean and durable.

      And incredibly it will be the first toilet ever to have a seat with smooth, rounded edges. Not like all those barbed wire versions the rest of us have been using for 20 years.

    • You mean you're going to wait for Apple's patented competing product.

      Once they enter the market, despite decades of existing players in that market, nobody else should be able to participate in the smart toilet market. The entire market is God's gift to Apple.

      MCCCXXXVII intellectualis proprietas pupillam est magnum sacculum canis stercus
      • Re:iPoop (Score:4, Funny)

        by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:43PM (#40999783) Journal

        And then, there'll be the inevitable design flaw that crops up once the iCrapper becomes the market darling. And the cover-up of the design flaw. And the extensive silencing of forum discussion of the design flaw. And the "You're sitting on it wrong" email. Then the threatened lawsuits, and the announcement of free toilet seat covers to help remedy the problem.

    • I'm just going to wait for Apple's competing product. The toilet is a perfect example of an Apple product. It has one button, one function, and it needs to be clean and durable.

      The iCan.

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      I'll just leave this here [blogspot.com]

      It's an oldie.
  • Pass (Score:5, Funny)

    by zill (1690130) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:17PM (#40999385)
    I'm sick and tired of all these Windows 8 ads on slashdot.
  • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:17PM (#40999393)

    "Bill Gates, the man responsible for bringing software to the masses with Microsoft and Windows..."

    Fucking hell, this is Slashdot, not Readers Digest.

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      I like how some nobody blogger who no one has ever heard of can get a post on the front page of /. (submitted by some "A/C" most likely the blogger him or herself) with just a name and no introduction.

      But Bill Gates, oh better explain that one! No one's ever heard of him.

    • by Shompol (1690084)
      I am sure there is more than one Gates on this planet, and some of them go by the name Bill. So when Bill starts making toilets such clarification is very helpful. So much, in fact, that without it the article would be almost meaningless.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apparently genital mutilation wasn't preventing disease.

  • So lets spend millions to reinvent the wheel while we're at it!

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:22PM (#40999471) Homepage

      Well, in this case, taking into account the water and sanitary needs of developing countries, this makes perfect sense.

      Not everybody has the luxury of municipal water which takes such things away to be handled by Someone Else.

      Doing it in a way that is portable, cheap to operate, doesn't require a massive infrastructure, and doesn't spread disease ... well, for a lot of people in the world, that would be a huge improvement.

      From TFA:

      About 2.6 billion people around the world don't have proper access to safe and suitable sanitation, and as a result, more than 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhea-related diseases or illnesses caused by consuming dirty water.

      So, really, what wheel are you insinuating is being reinvented here?

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      Oh yes. Why would you need to reinvent the toilet when all rural areas in third world countries obviously have the same access to municipal water and sewer systems just like we have here in the first world?

  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:18PM (#40999407)

    There are already a multitude of solutions available, eg. bio-friendly bags that turn poop into fertilizer and just need you dig a hole. Seems to me that if he really want to reduce disease and improve lives he should aim to develop soap which doesn't require water. or something.

  • Deja Vu (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why do I feel like we've talked about this before [slashdot.org]?

    Oh, yeah. Because we have [slashdot.org].

  • by Sepodati (746220) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:20PM (#40999425) Homepage

    Can you please design one that doesn't leave shit streaked all the way down the back when you take a dump? I thought a toilet was a toilet, until I saw all the kinds they have in Europe. You have to scrub every one of them down after a dump. The worst was one that had a flat shelf to dump on and the water would wash it off. Yeah, good luck getting that loaf to wash away. What the hell? Sorry for the shitty post, but this is the topic we were presented with.

  • Good for him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:21PM (#40999445)

    I know the typical /. response is to either make a "Windows Sucks!" crack or to launch into some conspiracy theory about how this is part of some secret agenda to foist MS-brand proprietary toilets on the world. But I'm going to applaud his efforts instead.

    But if you have to have a crack, here's one: This beats the crap out of anything Steve Jobs ever did for the third world.

  • The best use for human excrement is fertilizer really - high phosphorous and nitrogen content, ideal for the fields. It's certainly more environmentally friendly than fossil-fuel based fertilizers (and not just in the third world either).

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Great way to spread disease too!

      Without proper composting or another method of heating it to kill all the nasties using excrement as fertilizer just continues to current problem of spreading disease.

    • Re:Fertilizer (Score:5, Informative)

      by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:37PM (#40999693) Journal

      Night soil [wikipedia.org], un-composed, is a health risk because pathogens are returned un-treated to the food production cycle. Composting it into "humanure" [wikipedia.org] is a good way to regain the nutrient value in a local closed system while reducing artificial fertilization inputs.

      Composting toilets exist, so I'm not really sure what role Gates would have, except maybe simplifying design and streamlining manufacturing and distribution so that they can become cheap and common in the areas of interest. Or else using some other technique besides composting for sanitization.... but that would require some kind of energy source to Pasteurize the waste. Hard to beat just letting composting microorganisms crank up the heat using just the nutrients in the waste.

      • How about burning? I know dried animal dung is used for cooking, maybe the same could apply with dried human waste? The resulting ash would still be high in N and P and of course pathogen-free.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:21PM (#40999453) Homepage

    This is great and I applaud and respect him for doing this. After you get done cracking jokes, go read The Big Necessity by Rose George. I never fully understood just how privileged we are.

    "2.6 billion people don't have sanitation. I don't mean that they have no toilet in their house and must use a public one with queues and fees. Or that they have an outhouse, or a rickety shack that empties into a filthy drain or pigsty. All that counts as sanitation, though not a safe variety. The people who have those are the fortunate ones. Four in ten people have no access to any latrine, toilet, bucket, or box. Instead, they defecate by train tracks and in forests. They do it in plastic bags and fling them through the air in narrow slum alleyways.... Four in ten people live in situations where they are surrounded by human excrement because it is in the bushes outside the village or in the city yards, left by children outside the backdoor...

    In 2007, readers of the British Medical Journal were asked to vote for the biggest medical milestone of the last two hundred years. Their choice was wide: antibiotics, penicillin, anesthesia, The Pill. They chose sanitation."

  • You can see a video of Gates's presentation and an up-close video of toilet 2.0 here: http://www.itworld.com/windows/289818/bill-gates-wants-better-toilet-insert-joke-here [itworld.com]
  • Kudos to Bill... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wermske (1781984) * on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:26PM (#40999515) Homepage
    When and where humans gather, their waste accumulates. If this waste is not appropriately (safely) disposed of the health and general wellfare of society suffers. According to WHO/UNICEF, water and waste-related diseases are killing millions of people each year and preventing millions more from contributing to society through reduced health and productivity.

    2.5 billion people live without the "minimum necessary" sanitation services. Access to safe, clean and effective human urine and feces disposal facilities is the most basic definition of sanitation. Improvements sanitation and hygiene has demonstrated positive effects on health. Unfortunately, many people are denied access to sanitation technology and/or infrastructure and thus lack the means of disposing of their waste. The challenge scales with population and can reach critical mass of non-functionality in areas of high population density in developing countries.

    There is no single solution. The answer to the challenge requires management of fresh water and access to sanitation technology that mitigates today's risks while scaling with a determined uplift of infrastructure. This kind of massive-scale civil and social architecture requires great resources (fiscal, intellectual, and moral) directed in a continual and strategic ways. I believe Bill, Warren, and others are well positioned to drive success in this area...

  • by Omega Hacker (6676) <omega@nOSpAM.omegacs.net> on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:30PM (#40999593)
    He's looking for somewhere to put Windows 8. Normal toilets that sufficed for previous versions of Windows just aren't capable of handling Metro. God help you if you run across one of these new toilets and don't know where to "Start".....
  • by na1led (1030470) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:31PM (#40999603)
    What will the licensing fee be, to use this new toilet?
  • There's a difference between "consumed" water and "flushed" water.

    Water that you use in your house and return to the sewers can be cleaned and re-used.

    Water that you put on your plants or waste on golf courses evaporates and is consumed.

    A new toilet attacks the small part of the problem: the flushed water that is reused. Instead, Bill should focus on reducing water consumption.

    --PM

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Cleaning water to drinking standard, then cleaning sewage to dumping-in-the-river standard require time, land, energy and chemicals, even if the water does go back where it came from (mostly) eventually. I many places in the world they simply don't have the water or infrastructure to distribute it, so there isn't any flushing anyway.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:34PM (#40999647)
  • ...given his legacy with windows.
  • A few minutes ago I placed a comment (apparently the first) on the linked website (International Business Times) which was not 100% worship of the God Gates. It appeared, but when I checked a few minutes later it had gone. They seem very touchy.

    I thought my comment was perfectly reasonable. Here it is :-

    Gates said :- "The flush toilets we use in the wealthy world are irrelevant, impractical and impossible for 40 percent of the global population, because they often don't have access to water, and sewers, electricity, and sewage treatment systems."

    Why does a flush toilet need electricity? Mine doesn't; moreover, although I live in a wealthy rural part of the UK I have no main sewer connection. The toilet flushes to my own septic tank where the stuff decomposes - it is little more than a masonery tank set below the ground and looks after itself apart from my getting the solids pumped out once a year. It isn't rocket science.

    It uses water, but doesn't most of the World's population live near water? Far more than 60% I'd wager. It does not need to be drinkable. Yes, there are regions that do not, but we have plenty of it in the UK, so no thanks Gates, this "wealthier country" does not need to your stinking toilets to conserve water. Take your concerns elsewhere.

    • Your comment was not censored, it's on the article, and I'm glad to see you showing yourself here so that I can mock you.

      He isn't pushing for a better design of toilet for the UK. He's pushing for a better design of toilet in the developing world.

      And yes, your sanitation system does need electricity because your crap (including the stuff you're talking) goes to a waste treatment plant that depends on electrically driven machinery to operate. It doesn't just sit in your septic tank and decompose, by your ow

    • I lived in a place in Congo where for most of the year water was carried (by human power) several hundred vertical feet up from the river. People did not have enough money for masonry on their houses, much less for underground septic tanks, and there is nobody around to pump out solids later.

      Incidentally, the electricity would likely be for an electric incinerating toilet--a reasonable option if you have no running water but do have power.

  • Africa (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @02:43PM (#40999791) Journal
    I have a friend working on water quality in Saharan Africa. She sent me this picture [ct.fra.bz] which I find hilarious. However, it's true. There are parts of the world where there is barely enough water to drink, let alone crap in. I think it's a noble cause.

    Also, this story is a dupe. [slashdot.org]
  • I thought he already did that [wikipedia.org]! It sure functioned like one, at any rate...

  • ... for Bill Gates. I wonder how much Mr. Gates' PR firm paid to have this article placed here?
  • The reason? (Score:4, Funny)

    by mooingyak (720677) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:15PM (#41000181)

    Because he's not happy with the way shit's going.

  • Jokes aside.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erp_consultant (2614861) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @03:52PM (#41000641)
    Bill Gates has a lot of critics, myself included, but I think he deserves at least some credit for trying to improve the lives of the world's poorest people. Much of the famine and disease in Africa is caused by lack of water, both drinking and irrigation. It seems to me that if someone can come up with a waterless toilet it would be helpful. Perhaps the end product can be used to fertilize crops? Gates represents a new breed of philanthropists. The old way was to just write a big check to some charity and trust that they spend the money efficiently and in the way you want it spent. I have worked for non-profits and I can say that the ones I worked for were very inefficient...along the lines of government agencies (yes, I've worked for them too). They mean well and have noble causes but there is a lot of waste. Gates wants a direct hand in the money he donates so that it will get spent in the way he wants and the recipients will be made to show some progress. Frankly, I don't see a problem with that, given the vast amounts of money he has pledged. Some of the ideas will work and others will not but nobody will know unless they try.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @06:29PM (#41002803)
    A new toilet better suited for developing countries. Forget the fact that most of the per capita waste in the world happens right at home in N. America. But yeah, stick a "developing countries" label on it to make it go down better with the Politically Correct crowd.

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