The great toilet battle – Does Bill Gates have a solution? | DW Documentary

A toilet revolution is set to bring much-needed change when it comes to human waste. Each day, a single person produces one litre of urine and 200 grams of feces. In many places, feces is flushed down the toilet using around six litres of water, generating millions of tons of waste.

Globally, the issue presents major health and environmental challenges, because this waste has to be processed and disposed of. Reducing toilets’ immense water consumption is the focus of a good deal of research. The goal is almost completely dry toilets.

Bill Gates is among those concerned about the problem. The philanthropist has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new technologies designed to be more efficient and ecological than traditional flushing toilets. One central question in the research is that of bad odour’s. Scientists have begun a global effort to figure out how toilet stink can be decoded at the molecular level and eliminated using science.

Feces has a special composition that generates its unpleasant odour. This in turn has a warning function, as drinking water contaminated with feces can transmit cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. These diseases kill hundreds of thousands of children worldwide every year.

In India, open defecation is a major public health hazard. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to put an end to this habit with the “Swachh Bharat” or “Clean India” Mission. Basic sanitation has become a political issue, and millions of dry toilets are planned throughout the country.

When it comes to dealing with human waste, the idea of recycling crops up again and again. In times of water scarcity and more conscious waste management, the possibilities of turning excrement and urine into electricity or fertilizer are gaining importance.


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I never, ever romanticise life in the pit. It was a hard, dirty, noisy, tiring, dangerous job in a confined space, a very dark world with no toilets or running water to drink or wash with ~ Dennis Skinner

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