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Gates Foundation Flush With Success at Toilet Challenge

Six teams win a Gates Foundation contest in India to reinvent toilets for developing countries.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates’s obsession with poop paid off for six teams in India who’ve been selected to receive funding in a global competition to build a better bowl.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the winners of the Indian edition of the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” Saturday. It’s part of the organization’s broader efforts to bring better sanitation services to millions of people in developing countries.

Teams representing 15 countries gathered in New Delhi for the contest, which was co-hosted by the Indian government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More than a hundred projects were entered into the competition. Among the six projects that will split a $2 million grant from the Gates Foundation and the Indian government’s Department of Biotechnology are:

  • a field test in a suburban Indian slum of a self-sustaining solar-power electronic toilet
  • a project to test a toilet that uses a sand-like material and air blower instead of water
  • testing of a toilet that would use ultrasound technology to reduce the need for water in flushing

This is the fourth set of grants awarded by the Gates Foundation to engineer next-generation toilets for developing countries that don’t have robust or affordable sewer systems.

The foundation has focused on next-generation Porta-Potties for some time, as we reported two years ago. The Gates Foundation launched the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” in 2011.

Teams are required to tackle a fairly daunting list of goals in their next-generation johns. Ideally, they’re supposed to be able to operate without water, sewer or electrical connections, remove germs from human waste and operate on less than 5 cents per day.

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