Bill Gates Reinvents the Toliet

Bill Gates is reinventing the toilet. That’s right; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating a staggering $41.5 million dollars in grants to various organizations involved in developing new sanitation technology.  Here is a breakdown of where some of the funds will be going:

  • $12 million dollars is going to the African Development Bank in their effort to bring sanitation management services to 1.5 urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa
  • $10 million is going to a German-Kenyan collaboration to improve sanitation services for people living in Kenya
  • $8 million to UNESCO Institute for Water Education, increasing education focus on water solutions that work for the poor
  • $8.5 million going to USAID’s “WASH for Life”, this program will try and determine the best ways to deliver sanitation, water and hygiene services to the poor.


Perhaps the most interesting use of the $41.5 million dollar donation is the $3 million that is going towards the “Reinventing the Toilet Challenge.” This grant will support eight universities across the world, including CalTech, Delft University, and Stanford to participate in the challenge of reinventing the modern toilet. The challenge outlines include remodeling the toilet as a stand-alone unit that does not use piped in water, electricity or a sewer connection. In addition, the unit has to work on less than 5 CENTS A DAY.

Although one of the smaller financial commitments, the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge presents a unique opportunity to change the world. The invention of the toilet nearly 200 years ago significantly changed the world.  As Sylvia Matthew Burwell, president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated:

“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save the lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by the  invention of the toilet,” Burwell continued, “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”

There have already been some rather interesting ideas generated in regards to this challenge. For example, turning waste into useful fertilizer or the creation of “dry toilets”. Whether a new toilet is invented or not, the nearly $42 million dollar donation will, no doubt, allow for significant advances and aid to those countries that need it most. While many people in Western countries take their toilets for granted, most people around the world do not have access to fresh running water or toilets. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seek to change all that, and along the way, hope to reinvent the toilet