Bill Gates thinks the modern-day flush toilet isn’t good enough. Most of the developing world can’t afford to use it, and poor sanitation spreads diarrheal diseases.
So the Gates Foundation is challenging universities to build a better toilet—latrines that are hygienic, generate energy and don’t require running water or a septic system. The foundation is giving $41.5 million toward that end, and proposals include toilets powered by heat, microwaves or solar panels.
A sustainable toilet could save lives in developing countries. Poor sanitation leads to many diarrhea-related deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization:
“Worldwide around 1.1 billion people lack access to improved water sources and 2.4 billion have no basic sanitation. Diarrhea due to infection is widespread throughout the developing world. In Southeast Asia and Africa, diarrhea is responsible for as much as 8.5% and 7.7% of all deaths, respectively.”