I just traveled halfway around the world to look at a toilet, writes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
If you’re a long-time reader of The Gates Notes, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are few things I love talking about more. Sanitation is one of the most important issues we work on. I even drank water made from human feces a couple years ago.
That’s why I’m so excited to visit Beijing, China this week for the Reinvented Toilet Expo, where some of the most high-tech toilets in the world will be on display.
The toilets at the expo aren’t just fascinating gadgets—they have the potential to save millions of lives. More than half of the world’s population uses unsafe sanitation facilities. Even in places where people have access to toilets or pit latrines, their waste isn’t disposed of safely. The pathogens from the waste find their way into the local water supply and makes people sick.
The diseases caused by contaminated water kill more than 500,000 children under five every year. Those who survive are often too sick to go to school. It’s no exaggeration to say that poor sanitation holds back whole communities and entire nations.
If you live in a level 3 or 4 country, you can thank your sewer system for keeping you safe. Sewers have historically been the best way to make sure waste isn’t releasing harmful pathogens into the environment.
But what if you didn’t need a sewer to keep people safe? What if your toilet could dispose of waste all on its own?
The toilets on display here in Beijing might one day replace a piece of technology that’s been with us for ages—and they could save millions of lives in the process.
Why the world deserves a better toilet (Gates Notes)