Advancing sanitation: 10 years of reinventing the toilet for the future

A reinvented toilet: The waterless, solar-powered Eco-San Toilet, designed at Caltech, is pilot tested at an elementary school in Jiangsu Province, China. 
A reinvented toilet: The waterless, solar-powered Eco-San Toilet, designed at Caltech, is pilot tested at an elementary school in Jiangsu Province, China. ©Gates Archive/Shawn Koh

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De-throning “The Throne” at the Reinvent the Toilet Expo in Beijing, China

The flush toilet hasn’t changed much since it was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harington. (Yes, the inventor of “The John” was named John. See also: Thomas Crapper.) Sure, there have been other advancements – waste treatment plants, underground sewers, septic systems – but these complicated, expensive, and hard-to-manage technologies don’t do much good in developing countries where 950 million people still have to defecate outdoors.
By Ryan Bell Feature Writer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Users with membership cards at a community toilet for women in an urban slum in Pune, India.

Our work with Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

The foundation focuses on accelerating innovations in non-sewered sanitation technology and service delivery, particularly in densely populated areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: A brief history

Learn more about the history of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge and the foundation’s collaborations with global innovators, development banks, corporate partners, sanitation utilities, and governments.