About 2.5 billion people use unsafe toilets or defecate in the open. Poor sanitation causes severe diarrhea, which kills 1.5 million children each year. Smart investments in sanitation can reduce disease, increase family incomes, keep girls in school, help preserve the environment, and enhance human dignity.
In July 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced an initiative to reinvent the toilet, along with $265 million in grants spread across a variety of efforts to spur greater innovation in sanitation.
The California Institute of Technology received the first prize of $100,000 for a solar-powered toilet design and generates energy in the form of hydrogen and electricity. Loughborough University won the $60,000 second-place prize for a toilet that produces charcoal, minerals and clean water by product. The $40,000 third place prize went to the University of Toronto for developing a toilet that turns human waste into clean water and other clean resources.