By Rob Ellison
Development Goal: By 2030, provide universal access to safe and affordable water and sanitation.
The Copenhagen Consensus suggests 3 interventions for developing country sanitation.
1. A behavior change program to create demand for sanitation in rural areas: an investment of US$3 billion could serve 600 million people, 50% of the rural population currently without basic service, with a BCR of 4‐7 at a discount rate of 8%. This is a low‐risk investment already demonstrated to be effective at a scale of tens of millions of people. Targeted subsidies for the poor will likely be a critical element of a successful program, so that Open Defecation Free status can be achieved and health gains realized.
2. Sanitation as a Business, latrine emptying and fecal sludge processing services at an annual cost of US$10 per household: an investment of US$320 million ($120 million in technology and institutional innovation, and a further $200M in market development) could serve 200 million low‐income urban people, 20% of the latrines currently emptied manually, with a BCR of 23‐47. 25 This is a medium risk investment in a product and development innovation package, key elements of which have already been demonstrated to be feasible.
3. Reinvented Toilet, an off‐the‐grid toilet that processes and recycles human waste at household scale and provides an excellent user experience affordably: an investment of US$125M ($50M in technology innovation and product development, and a further $75M in market development) could serve a billion low income urban people, 100% of the latrines currently emptied manually (and potentially many more people) with a BCR of 40. This is a high‐risk investment in research, product development and market development for a product currently at the proof‐of‐concept/prototype stage.
Baseline – The CRAPPER – a $200 toilet built of scavenged and local materials using low technology
Many people simply do not have toilets.
This is a serious health and environment issue.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are ‘reinventing the toilet’.
‘In 2011, the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program initiated the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to bring sustainable sanitation solutions to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe, affordable sanitation.
These grants have been awarded to researchers around the world who are using innovative approaches—based on fundamental engineering processes—for the safe and sustainable management of human waste. In addition to these Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC) grants, we have made a range of other investments that are aligned with reinventing the toilet, and we are continuously seeking to expand our partnerships on this challenge.
The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge aims to create a toilet that:
• Removes germs from human waste and recovers valuable resources such as energy, clean water, and nutrients.
• Operates “off the grid” without connections to water, sewer, or electrical lines.
• Costs less than US$.05 cents per user per day.
• Promotes sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services and businesses that operate in poor, urban settings.
• Is a truly aspirational next-generation product that everyone will want to use—in developed as well as developing nations.’
‘The trouble is that the Gates Foundation has treated the quest to find the proper solution as it would a cutting-edge project at Microsoft: lots of bells and whistles, sky-high budgets and engineers in elite institutions experimenting with the newest technologies, thousands of miles away from their clients.
Just consider some of the parameters of the Gates Foundation’s first Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: Create a “practical” toilet that is suitable for a single-family residence in the developing world. Make sure it takes in the bodily waste of an entire family and outputs drinkable water and condiments, like salt. And while you’re at it, make sure that the toilet is microprocessor-supervised and converts feces into energy. And all this has to cost just pennies per person per day. That’s some toilet.
The winner of last year’s contest invented a solar-powered toilet that converts poop into energy for cooking. Impressive — but each one costs $1,000.
Other models boasted membrane systems, treatment of fecal sludge using supercritical water oxidation (heating water to 705 degrees Fahrenheit, or 374 degrees Celsius, then injecting oxygen) and hydrothermal carbonization (oxidizing feces at a high temperature and high pressure while under water).
High-tech toilets are exciting, but even the Gates Foundation has admitted that “the economics of such a solution remain uncertain.” In plain English: No one can afford them.
They are beyond impractical for those who need them most: the residents of slums in countries like Haiti, Indonesia and Bangladesh, where people make between $1 and $5 per day.’ New York Times – Bill Gates Can’t Build a Toilet
It’s not rocket science.