Part 1: Why is toilet technology important?
As a company named DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen, we obviously work on a lot of bathrooms. These are personal, intimate spaces, and that includes the famous commode. The throne. The toilet. Not something people talk about much.
But we do! In fact, around our office, there are probably more conversations about toilets than anything else.
At the recent KBIS [Kitchen and Bath Industry Show], we had the opportunity to talk to several toilet manufacturers, and found out more about the most recent advances in our favorite plumbing fixture. That will be part 2 of this blog.)
Why even discuss toilet technology?
You’re probably saying to yourself at this point, “Who really cares?” The answer to this question, like many other questions, is… Bill Gates. In fact one of his most famous Tweets is “There are few things I love more than talking about toilets.”
Back in 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new charitable focus: “Finding a safe, affordable way to manage waste, leading to widespread sanitation, hygiene and health issues.” The foundation put out what they called The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, “an effort to develop next-generation toilets, to deliver safe and sustainable sanitation” for the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not have access to it.
FACT: More people worldwide own cell phones than toilets.
The first four winners of The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge were:
— “The California Institute of Technology: $100,000 first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity.
— Loughborough University in the United Kingdom: The $60,000 second prize for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water.
— University of Toronto in Canada: Third place prize of $40,000 for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and clean water.
— Special recognition and $40,000 also went to Eawag (the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology)… for their outstanding design of a toilet user interface.”
Toilets are a big (money) challenge
There was such a great response to this first challenge from the research and engineering communities that Bill put up another chunk of money ($3.4 million this time!) in the form of grants, for a Phase 2 Challenge. Those winners were:
— Cranfield University: $810,000 for a toilet that removes water from waste and vaporizes it, using a hand-operated pump; water can then be used for irrigation. Solids also become fuel and/or fertilizer.
— ERAM Scientific Solutions Private Limited: $450,000 to provide public “eToilets” to the urban poor.
— RTI International: $1.3 million to fund a toilet that disinfects liquid waste and turns solids into fuel or electricity.
— University of Colorado at Boulder: $780,000 to develop a solar toilet to disinfect waste and produce biological charcoal.
Eleven more grants were given out to worldwide organizations in 2013, and the Foundation hosted the first actual Toilet Expo in Beijing. A second expo in New Delhi was developed by 2014; 2016 saw almost two dozen more projects being created across the world.
The momentum continues into this decade, with start-up companies like Tiger Toilet installing facilities to service more than 35,000 people in rural India.
Image courtesy of Gatesfoundation.org
High-five to our fellow toilet geek
While Bill Gates is much more widely known for inventing and selling the desktop PC, we’d like to applaud his Foundation’s support for this somewhat taboo topic, and for treating it as the serious global issue that it is. We are glad to know that his support of better sanitation engineering is making more and more appropriate types of toilets available for people who need them… and the fact that some of them double as an agricultural or energy resource is a bonus.
Read part 2 of this blog to learn more about specific upgrades in residential toilet technology.
Does your toilet – or your entire bathroom – need an update? Give the designers at DreamMaker a call today (734-669-4000), or visit our website to see some of the lovely improvements we’ve made for bathrooms of all sizes.
Image courtesy of Financialexpress.com