Today, November 19, is World Toilet Day, but if you were able to celebrate it, you should consider yourself lucky. Worldwide, about 2.5 billion people — a third of the global population — have no access to safe sanitation. This lack of hygiene is linked to the spread of many preventable diseases, such as diarrheal diseases that kill more than 500,000 children under the age of five every year.
Since 2011, a team of U of T engineers under the direction of Professor Yu-Ling Cheng (ChemE), director of the Centre for Global Engineering, has been developing a solution. They took up a challenge issued by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to design a toilet that could disinfect human waste without connections to water, sewer or grid power. Its total cost had to work out to less than five U.S. cents per person per day, and it needed to be designed for users in the developing world.
Cheng and her team were among the winners at the first Reinvent the Toilet Fair back in 2012. Since then, with continued support from the Gates foundation, they have been working to develop the disinfection process as well as building and refining their mechanical designs. Writer Tyler Irving caught up with Cheng to learn more about how the project is going.