People will always produce sewage or as it’s called – bio-waste. But out of the world’s 7 billion people, only an estimated 4.5 billion people have access to working toilets. Of the 2.5 billion who don’t have proper sanitation, 1.1 billion defecate in the open, contaminating drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences.
Poor sanitation is a global public health crisis, and is one of the primary reasons why 1.5 million children die every year from diarrhea, more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, according to Unicef.
And Western toilets aren’t always the answer either, as they require a massive infrastructure of sewer lines and treatment plants that just aren’t feasible in many poor countries. But new technologies are coming that could revolutionize the way sanitation is handled in the developing world.
Just recently Bill Gates unveiled a new technology that turns human waste into clean drinking water.
Gates technology is called the “Omni Processor”. It is basically a compact waste treatment plant that can process sewage for a community of about 100,000 people. The processor powers itself, deriving enough energy from the fecal matter it incinerates to run the unit. And it combines incineration, steam power and filtration technologies to ensure that no energy is wasted in the process. Gates was filmed on “60 Minutes” drinking the water.
“The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle,” Gates wrote on his blog. “And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”
The thought of drinking water derived from poop might make some cringe, especially if you watch a pile of human feces go up conveyors, drop into large bins where it is treated and boiled into water vapor, before turning into clean, safe and “delicious” drinking water (see Bill Gates and Jimmy Fallon drinking the water in the video below).
The Omni Processor has the potential to be one of the most powerful weapons in tackling the multitude of problems associated with the 2.5 billion people who still lack access to a toilet. And if visionaries such as Bill Gates as well as others can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, and even turn it into clean drinking water, the quality of life for many around the world would vastly improve.