Since it was first invented back in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, the flush toilet has remained relatively consistent in its technology and design. For a while, this hasn’t been too much of a problem for developed countries, but there are limitations: a connection to a municipal sewage system and water to remove the waste. Bidets offer a shake-up in the way cleanups are handled, but at the end of the day, they have the same requirements. That all looks to change, though with the release of a concept for a new waterless toilet.
Started back in 2011 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge,’ reached out to manufacturers to find a way in which one could improve upon the fixture’s near timeless design. Ultimately, this put Samsung into contact with Bill Gates himself, starting a collaboration in 2019 that would lead to the release of this new fixture that forgoes traditional plumbing in favor of a unique, bio-eradication method.
According a blurb put out by Samsung, the toilet recycles urine through a purification process that creates perfectly re-usable, treated water. Solid waste, meanwhile, is dehydrated, dried and combusted into ashes in a process that sterilizes any disease-causing organisms found in human waste.
In a statement put out by the Gates Foundation, the main focus of the collaboration has been to develop “solutions that can protect people and communities from human waste–borne pathogens and enable governments to deliver truly inclusive sanitation services that reach the poorest communities.”
Samsung Declares ‘Open Source’ Access to Fixture’s Design
According to the UN, nearly 3.6 billion people in the world lack direct access to safe waste disposal systems while 2 billion suffer from limited access to clean drinking water.
The toilet itself doesn’t rely on government infrastructure to be usable and is able to adequately disinfect all waste that goes into it, rendering it a non-threat to the health and hygiene of those using it. If adequately deployed, the toilet has the potential to do some significant change in affected regions.
Samsung has even announced plans to offer royalty-free licensing of the concept, which could lead to other manufacturers developing waterless toilets of their own. On that end, it will certainly take some time to organize logistics and ensure the fixtures are delivered to the appropriate locations, but there is another aspect to these innovations that speaks to other issues affecting the globe currently.
Water scarcity continues to dominate headlines due to extreme drought across the globe. In the US, it has been so extreme that emergency reserves are nearing depletion in areas such as those serviced by the Colorado River.
Homebuilders, such as KB Home, have even taken pledges to only construct houses that meet rigid EPA standards for water conservation in drought affected regions. Meanwhile, one of the largest contributors to home water consumption is the toilet, with nearly a third of a home’s water usage being used by this one fixture.
Although the goal of the original design remains the same, the fact that Samsung is choosing to offer the concept up for free to other manufacturers could potentially be an incredible boon for sustainability efforts throughout modern buildings.
The possibility of other manufacturers being able to work with, and potentially develop their own residential and commercial offerings using the same waterless disposal method would slash water usage for non-vital processes in a time where many regions of the world are currently undergoing some of the worst droughts in their recorded history and its only expected to get worse over time.