One flush – and compost within seconds

Prof. Oded Shoseyov, founder and chief scientific officer of Paulee CleanTec, the Israeli company that won a Gates Foundation grant for its toilet concept.

Baño. Potty. Loo. Toilets may go by different names, but in many parts of the world, access is lacking. An estimated 2 billion people or more don’t have access to a decent one, leaving them running to the bushes, the fields or worse, the nearby river or sea.

Much of the problem lies in the lack of infrastructure for water and sewage, a reason why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has come forward with a challenge: Reinvent the toilet. One Israeli company has risen to the occasion. Paulee CleanTec has invented a toilet that needs no water and turns human waste into compost in a matter of seconds.

How does it do that?

The technology takes inspiration from a product intended for dogs, which makes use of a “secret” chemical formula. When you flush, chemicals automatically mix with the solid waste, turning it into an odorless, sterile compost.

The byproduct is collected in a removable canister which people, especially farmers, can use as fertilizer. The liquid waste, meanwhile, goes to a separate reservoir where it is sterilized and used to flush the toilet. The process is powered through energy produced by the heat that arises when chemicals and human waste is mixed. It is stored in a battery that can also be backed up by solar energy.

Paulee CleanTec is considering providing a cubicle along with the toilet, which will have a small solar panel on the roof. Most houses in developing countries are too small to fit a toilet.

The company won a first-phase grant from the Gates Foundation worth $110,000 this June. It will use the money to further develop the toilet, doing feasibility studies, proof of concept and laboratory tests. If successful, it has a chance to win a second grant of up to $1 million.

“If the foundation will approve our 2nd application, the prototype can be ready at the end of next year,” CEO Oded Halperin said in an email.

Challenges remain though, such as the cost of the whole system. But Halperin said prices will be “on a minimum as we have committed to the foundation.” Also, the chemicals will only cost “a few cents” and can be changed once a month.

The lack of decent sanitation facilities can lead to outbreaks of diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and other diseases. It has killed millions of children, too. But if this invention works, the world may just be a step closer to solving its sanitation problem.

Read our previous #innov8aid.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.