Kohler, Wis. - Kohler Co., global leader in kitchen and bath design and technology, has collaborated with Caltech for the past two years in the development of a photovoltaic toilet as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In response to this successful project, the Gates Foundation recently approved a two-year grant to Kohler to design and fabricate five closed-loop flush toilet systems for field testing in developing world locations that do not have adequate sanitation. This new grant recognizes Kohler's dedication to improving global sanitation conditions and supports continued research and innovation of its toilet system.
"Our goal of creating a completely off-the-grid toileting system that is easier to transport and easier to maintain will allow us to place toilets in more locations around the world that have inadequate sanitation. And that allows us to improve the lives of more people," said Rob Zimmerman, sustainability manager for Kohler Co.
With the recent announcement from India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, promising through his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India campaign) to build 100 million toilets across the country, global interest in the developing world's sanitation conditions is higher than ever.
"There are 2.5 billion people in the world without access to adequate sanitation," said Zimmerman. "While education is an issue, there is also need for sanitation facilities that are hygienic, cost effective, and provide an aspirational toileting experience."
The prototype unit, developed by the Kohler-Caltech team, was displayed in March in Delhi, India, at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair – a showcase of the projects funded through the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. It is currently in field-testing in India.
Kohler will use the field findings to further improve the system with the goal of making it a more transportable unit. The toilet system includes a self-contained water purification and disinfection system that allows water to be reused and does not require wastewater disposal.
"Kohler has a long standing commitment to environmental and community enhancement," Zimmerman said. "We feel privileged to be able to use our position as a leader in the plumbing industry and utilizing our talented engineers to help innovate new solutions to sanitation issues."
In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started their Reinvent the Toilet Challenge with the intent of funding projects to address health and sanitation issues in the developing world. The program was created to design toilets that capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price.
The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge is an effort to develop next-generation toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don't have it. The program recognizes researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.
To date, the Gates Foundation has funded 16 research institutions across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.