In the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, our team and partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have a commitment to developing sanitation solutions for men and women, girls and boys, however in many parts of the developing world that lack access to safe and effective sanitation, gender discrimination disproportionately impacts women and girls. We believe that by focusing on the needs of adolescent girls, empowering them with better options, a virtuous cycle will be created that improves overall quality of life for girls, their families, and generations to come.
Below is a short video about a 12-year-old girl in India, highlighting the importance of including women and girls directly in the product design, education and business aspects of providing sanitation solutions.
A very interesting post was recently published on the personal blog of Bill Gates. It is about odor, and it focuses on the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s partnership with Firmenich and how they are attempting to combat odor, or eliminate it completely.
“Millions of new toilets are being built around the world to help end open defecation, including in India where a massive new toilet construction program is currently underway. This is great news. Unfortunately, many of these new toilets, especially the pit latrines, don’t get used because they smell bad and people continue to relieve themselves in the open where the air is fresher. This is a worrying trend that threatens to undermine the progress that’s been achieved in global sanitation.” – Bill Gates
As you may imagine, one of the many challenges we have faced in creating a sanitation system (and promoting its adoption), is a human’s natural aversion to the smells that can often occur with bathrooms used by the public.
A video from the post (also embedded below) includes a few scenes from Ahmedabad slums, and Christian Starkenmann applying Firmenich bleach powder in an Ahmedabad community toilet.
Our project has worked closely with Firmenich over the last 2 years. RTI and our partnership with SEWA facilitated this latest visit to slum areas for part of the filming of this video in September.
RTI International (an independent nonprofit research institute that this very project functions under) recently put up their own press release on the recent launch of our beta-toilet prototype in India.
“We have a great team of USA and India staff and partners that has enabled us to test, revise and innovate new waste processing solutions,” said Myles Elledge, senior director of international development policy and planning at RTI. “This new beta prototype version installed at our CEPT University test facility is an important step in our product development journey.”
The new sanitation system was installed at the CEPT University in Ahmedabad, where the original prototype has been collecting data for more than a year. Researchers from all sides hope the new beta version will provide even more data and bring them closer to realizing their goal of providing a self-sufficient sanitation system that people will want to use.
RTI is partnered with Duke University, Colorado State University, NASA’s Ames Research Center and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to develop the prototype of this safe, sanitary and affordable waste treatment system.
In a recent article published in “Flavour and Fragrance Journal” authors Charles Jean-François Chappuis, Yvan Niclass, Isabelle Cayeux, and Christian Starkenmann write about the results of a recent sensory survey they did in Switzerland, India and Africa. Our project (as well as a hat tip to our own Dr. Myles F. Elledge) is acknowledged at the end for our support and work in Ahmedabad.
One of the things that we can all agree on is that the smell of a typical public toilet has the potential to be, well… not terribly pleasant.
Aside from studiously keeping the toilet and the area around it clean (a herculean task for sure), there are researchers developing perfumes to mask the very odor that is created by faecal matter and stale urine. And the best part? They are succeeding! But it certainly isn’t easy.
“Toilet malodour consists of a complex mixture of volatile compounds arising from faecal material and stale urine. Analysis of the odours emanating from human waste is a challenging task because these odours change over time and can vary depending on individual diet and health.”
No doubt, the problem is definitely a moving target – but the solutions are worth it. People naturally want to relieve themselves in pleasant environments. The article goes on to mention The Gates Foundation and their dedication to incorporating olfactory research into their Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.
“In addition to the design of new toilet systems, including waste management and cleaning cycles to maintain the toilets in hygienic conditions, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pays attention to the olfactory experience during toilet use because the perception of cleanliness is also driven by odour. Thus, implementing pleasant fragrances in clean toilets will communicate a message of good sanitation in hygienic conditions and promote their usage. In this context, Firmenich, a world leader in the fragrance industry, is involved in the RTTC project to create the perfumes that will make the use of toilets a pleasant olfactory experience.”
It’s a fascinating read and we encourage you to read it in it’s entirety right here.