The former Microsoft CEO opened the three-day Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Tuesday, reports GeekWire. The expo focuses on technologies that will revolutionize the collection, management, and treatment of human waste, Gates said, adding, “The technologies you’ll see here are the most significant advances in sanitation in nearly 200 years.”
During his keynote, Gate held up a jar with human feces in it, noting that the amount of human waste in that jar alone contains 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs. “In places without safe sanitation, there is much more than one [jar’s] worth in the environment. These and other pathogens cause diseases like diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid that kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of 5 every year,” Gates explained.
Gates also highlighted some promising human waste tech, including a small treatment plant called an Omni Processor that processes human waste to produce electricity and clean drinking water. As Gates said:
“Today, we are on the cusp of a sanitation revolution. It’s no longer a question of if we can do it. It’s a question of how quickly this new category of off-grid solutions will scale. We don’t know exactly how long that will take, but we do know it can’t happen fast enough.”