Poop in hand, Bill Gates backs China's toilet revolution

Bill Gates points at a jar containing human feces as he makes a point about the dangers of primitive sanitation

"This small amount of faeces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs".

Gates, and the expo itself, remained focused on the need - driven by present and future water shortages and a lack of infrastructure in many parts of the world - for toilets that process human waste without the need for water-fed sewers.

It is also unknown if Gates collected it himself.

Holding a beaker of human excreta that, Gates said, contained as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder explained to a 400-strong crowd that new approaches for sterilizing human waste may help end nearly 500,000 infant deaths and save $233 billion annually in costs linked to diarrhea, cholera and other diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

This stinky stunt at the showcase for new toilet technologies was sure to get people talking about sanitation, a pet cause of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The entrepreneur was helping to launch the three-day event in China - where leader Xi Jinping has made a so-called "toilet revolution" across the country a policy priority.

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There are multiple designs of the new toilet, but all work by separating liquid and solid waste.

The entrepreneur described the inventions on display as the "most significant advances in sanitation in almost 200 years". According to him, die each year about 500 thousand children under the age of five years. Every dollar invested in sanitation yields about $5.50 in global economic returns, according to the World Health Organization.

He said the foundation's partners had developed a self-powered technology that takes in human waste, kills risky pathogens and converts the resulting materials into products with potential commercial value - like clean water, electricity and fertiliser.

"All of them remove the pathogens from the waste and, most importantly, they don't have to be connected to the sewer system", Gates added.

The Gates Foundation hopes to instal reinvented toilets in schools and apartment buildings until they become cheap enough for individual families to afford.

On his trip, Mr Gates also appeared at the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, at a time of tension between the U.S. and China.

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