Poop in hand, Bill Gates backs China’s toilet revolution

Bill Gates points at a jar containing human feces as he makes a point about the dangers of primitive sanitation

Bill Gates points at a jar containing human feces as he makes a point about the dangers of primitive sanitation

But yes, Beijing is holding a "Toilet Expo" (kind of an "export" expo to balance out Shanghai's Import Expo perhaps?) right now and one of the guests of honor was Microsoft founder Bill Gates. "A typical toilet needs water, but numerous new approaches don't require any water at all, some of them don't need electricity either, others run on solar power".

On stage at the Expoo, Gates quipped that "a decade ago I never imagined that I'd know so much about poop".

Gates said that the foundation plans to invest an additional 200 million US dollars into supporting continued R&D efforts that can help bring down the costs of new sanitation products for the poor and bolster development in regions where new, non-sewered sanitation products can have the greatest impact. "It's very expensive and it's not gonna happen in these newer, poorer cities".

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent more than $200m on researching the field across the last seven years.

Gates pointed out the jar in his hand could contain "as many as 200 trillion rotavirus".

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's biggest private philanthropy organization, has committed roughly US$200 million to the toilet project and expects to spend the same amount again before the toilets are viable for wide-scale distribution.

He believes that lives would be saved as a result of the money saved in healthcare costs from the switch to a waterless toilet.

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He said the foundation's partners had developed a self-powered technology that takes in human waste, kills unsafe pathogens and converts the resulting materials into products with potential commercial value - like clean water, electricity and fertiliser.

Gates chose to sell his pitch in a country that has struggled with clean sanitation. In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a national "toilet revolution".

"China has made great progress in improving health and sanitation for millions of people", Gates said.

The stunt was part of his speech at the Reinvented Toilet Expo event - a showcase for new toilet technologies.

"The very first ones are still fairly expensive".

Mr Gates said it would be a mistake for the USA to cut aid.

"But this is how we bootstrap it, and we got a lot of enthusiasm here that this can be made cheap enough that we can cover Africa, which would not happen without this breakthrough".

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