Chi­nese sci­en­tists asked to im­prove toi­let

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Bill Gates is ask­ing Chi­nese re­searchers to ex­plore “poop power” in a pro­ject worth $5 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion.

The foun­da­tion an­nounced on Thurs­day in Bei­jing it will al­lo­cate grants to se­lect ap­pli­cants to re-en­gi­neer the com­mon toi­let to be more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and cost-ef­fec­tive.

Each grantee would re­ceive be­tween $100,000 to $500,000 to re­al­ize their toi­let de­signs, said Pro­fes­sor Li Zifu, with the Univer­sity of Science & Tech­nol­ogy Bei­jing, which has been en­trusted to im­ple­ment the pro­ject.

Doulaye Kone, se­nior pro­gram of­fi­cer of wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene with the foun­da­tion, said, “China is the first coun­try we have launched such an in­de­pen­dent grant, and we hope this will im­prove ac­cess among Chi­nese in­ven­tors to the pro­ject.”

Pre­vi­ously, the foun­da­tion launched a global cam­paign in July 2011 to prompt in­no­va­tion of a more sus­tain­able toi­let. The Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in the United States re­ceived a $ 100,000 first prize for a so­lar-pow­ered de­sign, which could trans­form waste into hy­dro­gen gas and elec­tric­ity.

Few ap­pli­ca­tions from China were re­ceived in 2011 prob­a­bly due to lan­guage bar­ri­ers, ac­cord­ing to Kone, who added that cul­tural back­grounds and needs should be con­sid­ered for prac­ti­cal de­signs.

“The China pro­ject is ex­pected to pro­duce de­signs which bet­ter meet de­mands in China and other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries across the world,” he said.

Kone also re­vealed that In­dia might be the next coun­try to see a sim­i­lar pro­ject.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, 2.5 bil­lion peo­ple world­wide don’t have ac­cess to toi­lets, re­sult­ing in 1.5 mil­lion deaths among chil­dren un­der the age of 5 each year due to san­i­ta­tion prob­lems.

Mean­while, in in­dus­trial coun­tries, toi­lets use 20 to 40 per­cent of to­tal wa­ter con­sump­tion.

In China, toi­let in­no­va­tion has two ma­jor goals — sus­tain­abil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity, said Li.

Zero wa­ter and elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion, a daily cost be­low 5 cents per per­son, no smell, and com­fort are also fa­vored, Kone added.

“We should look at hu­man waste as a source of fer­til­izer or min­er­als and re­cy­cle it,” Li ex­plained.

Be­sides, de­signs are ex­pected to be func­tional and rea­son­ably priced, even with­out a lo­cal sewage sys­tem, Li said.

WANG JIANKANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

A woman in­spects a new toi­let de­sign at the 2013 China En­ergy Sav­ing Ex­hi­bi­tion in Suzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince, on June 8. The toi­let is de­signed to use less wa­ter.

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