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Poop in hand, Bill Gates backs China’s toilet revolution

08 November 2018

"20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs".

So it came as a surprise when the founder of Microsoft brandished a jar of human waste at a forum on the future of the toilet in Beijing on Tuesday.

"The current toilet simply sends the waste away in the water, whereas these toilets don't have the sewer", Gates said.

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"Technology that you see here, are the most significant achievements in the field of sanitation in nearly 200 years", gates said at the opening of the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing. The event, according to the New York Times, was aimed at allowing brands to "showcase their takes on the simple bathroom fixture".

As one of the world's richest men and most active philanthropists, Mr Bill Gates usually has his hands full - this time with a jar of poop. "And I definitely never thought that Melinda would have to tell me to stop talking about toilets and faecal sludge at the dinner table", the billionaire told a laughing audience.

There are multiple designs of the toilet, but all work by separating liquid and solid waste. The convention boasted new products that challenge the traditional sanitation methods, which the World Health Organization says still eludes 2.3 billion people around the world - a problem that leads to the spread of deadly diseases.

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"Today, we are on the cusp of a sanitation revolution". According to gates, new approaches to sterilization of human waste can help prevent almost 500,000 infant deaths and save almost $233 billion a year allocated to the fight against diarrhea, cholera and other diseases, which are caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation and problems with personal hygiene.

He said the foundation's partners had developed a self-powered technology that takes in human waste, kills unsafe pathogens and converts the resulting materials into products with potential commercial value - like clean water, electricity and fertiliser. It's no longer a question of if we can do it.

Without cost-effective alternatives to sewers and waste-treatment facilities, urbanization and population growth will add to the burden. As adoption of these multi-unit toilets increases, and costs decline, a new category of reinvented household toilets will become available, the Gates Foundation said.

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Gates' trip comes amid trade tension between China and the United States, the world's two largest economies, which have slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth billions of dollars.

Poop in hand, Bill Gates backs China’s toilet revolution