The 200-year-old flush toilet requires a substantial amount of infrastructure, which is expensive to build and run. Innovative toilets could be a source of energy while dramatically improving sanitation.
Their aim is to create a toilet that will process wastewater in family homes and convert it into gas or electricity, saving families money and protecting them from deadly diseases caused by poor sanitation.
The Bangkok-based Asian Institute for Technology (AIT) is receiving a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the project, part of an estimated $380 million effort by the foundation to tackle sanitation problems in Asia and Africa.
“The [flush] technology that we’ve been using so far is 200 years old already … It hasn’t really been improved at all [since],” Thammarat Koottatep, an environmental engineer and associate professor at AIT, said at the AIT project’s launch Sept. 24.
The current flush toilet requires a substantial amount of sewage infrastructure, which is expensive to build and run. The technology for re-using and recycling the byproducts of animal waste is already available and used in industry but has not yet been applied to toilets, Thammarat said.
Severe diarrhea caused by poor sanitation kills 1.5 million children worldwide each year, according to the Gates Foundation.