How Waterless Urinals Led to the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge”

sanitation problems

One of the biggest supporters of waterless urinals turns out to be Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. Gates developed an interest in waterless urinals when he became more aware of the sanitation problems found in many parts of the world, many of which have barely enough water to support the people that live in these areas or grow the agriculture needed to feed them.

These sanitation problems are often the result of poor or no sewage systems or a lack of septic tanks.  This causes sewage from flush urinals and water using toilets to be released into nearby waterways. These waterways are often used for bathing, washing clothes, vegetation, and in many cases, drinking water.

When no-water urinals are installed, it is much easier to control urine waste so that it large quantities made up of mostly water do not end up in waterways.

We should also add that these sanitation problems have taken their toll, especially in parts of Africa and South Asia. They have resulted in high mortality rates, and it is estimated that 1.5 million children under the age of five die every year due to sanitation issues.

Because waterless urinals use no water whatsoever, the installation of waterless urinals can make more water available for other purposes, including drinking and irrigation.

As a result of these benefits, Gates has invested $3.4 million into a project called the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.”  The money is being sent to technology organizations and colleges around the world, to find ways to eliminate the use of water-using toilets.

Further, it is being used to help develop technologies that can be installed in facilities so they can recycle toilet water on their own. This way, the water can be used and reused over and over again.

“The flush toilets we use in the wealthy world are irrelevant and impractical for 40 percent of the global population,” says Gates. “[And the lack of water] in these poorer areas also endangers people's lives, creates an economic and a health burden for poor communities, and hurts the environment."

Since the challenge has begun, eight universities have received grants to create a toilet that operates with no electricity, no running water, and does not need a septic tank.  Further, they are also being asked to envision – and develop - a toilet that has no discharge of pollutants and costs just five cents per day to operate.

“This is going to be quite a challenge,” says Klaus Reichardt, CEO, and founder of Waterless Co., Inc.

“However, when it comes to reducing water consumption in restroom and bathroom fixtures, we have come such a long way in the past thirty years, I do expect we will see no-water toilet technologies developed in the near future.