We focus our grantmaking in five complementary areas: transformative technologies, urban sanitation markets, building demand for sanitation, policy and advocacy, and monitoring and evaluation.
A key part of our effort to radically improve sanitation in the developing world is our Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC). We are funding research to develop truly aspirational “next-generation” toilets that do not require a sewer or water connection or electricity, cost less than 5 cents per user per day, and are designed to meet people’s needs. Most of the projects use chemical engineering processes for energy and resource recovery from human waste.
A prototype toilet designed by Loughborough University researchers that extracts biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water from human waste.
Since 2011, we have awarded 16 RTTC grants to research organizations around the world. In 2013, we launched two country-specific RTTC programs in India and China. Both of these programs are designed to harness strong in-country research and development capabilities to solve this global challenge.
At the same time, we are developing market-driven ways to stop the dumping of fecal sludge into the environment. The Omni-Ingestor program is developing technologies to make servicing and maintenance of existing sanitation infrastructure—including latrine pits and septic tanks—easier and more affordable for private companies, public utilities, and municipalities. The Omni-Processor program is developing low-cost approaches for processing fecal sludge and the combined processing of fecal sludge and solid waste. The goal is to develop processors that are smaller than traditional treatment plants, with each processor supporting some 100,000 residents. Ideally, processed waste will be converted into products, forms of energy, or fertilizers and other soil amendments, which can generate revenue and thereby offset waste collection costs and increase people’s standard of living.
Urban Sanitation Markets
New sanitation technologies require new market structures and service models. In key urban markets, we are testing innovative approaches for their appeal to people in real-world settings. We are also working with local governments, service providers, and community-based organizations to foster a policy and regulatory environment that supports the use of new sanitation products and delivery methods.
These toilets in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, are distributed through local entrepreneurs, who collect the waste for use in generating electricity and producing fertilizer.
We see particular promise in approaches that allow private-sector providers to profit from byproducts that have market value, including energy and fertilizer generated from fecal sludge. We recognize that in the near term, such revenues may not fully cover collection and treatment costs or generate traditional rates of return, so the public sector will continue to have an important role to play—not only to provide regulation and oversight but also to supply some of the services.
Building Demand for Sanitation
A household toilet built as part of a community sanitation project in Badsu village in Himachal Pradesh, northern India.
In addition to investing in improved technologies and urban market conditions, we support initiatives that help stimulate user demand for improved sanitation. Part of this effort involves working with sanitation providers and partners to help them adopt more evidence-based practices so they can deliver sanitation services that meet people’s needs. It also includes promoting incremental shifts in social norms around toilet use that will lead to higher demand for better sanitation products and services as they become available.
Policy and Advocacy
We work to improve the policy and regulatory environment for sanitation through partnerships with all levels of governments, multilateral organizations, community-based nongovernmental organizations, service providers, and others.
Monitoring and Evaluation
We invest in monitoring and evaluation to understand the effectiveness of various sanitation approaches. We use this information to report on our progress, assess the impact of our grantmaking, and share lessons that we learn with our partners.