Why Bill Gates cares about your poop
A new company is turning waste into fertilizer and saving energy and water in the process.
When you flush your toilet, the waste doesn't just disappear. It goes on a ragtag journey to get treated in faraway sewage plants. A new company, founded by Israeli entrepreneur Ilan Levy, wants to change that. He says that about 4 percent of the world's energy is used to treat sewage. This seems like a ... waste ... of energy and water, two things we never seem to have enough of.
“Until we change the 'flush and forget' way we treat our waste, I will not rest," said Levy.
True to his word, Levy was not resting. He and his colleagues were working on a new business idea: Epic CleanTec, a company that collects waste from buildings and turns it into something useful: dry, odorless fertilizer.
“Rather than sticking with the antiquated status quo of flushing all wastewater into sewers and treating it in plants far away, we can turn each building into its own treatment plant," explained Epic CleanTec's CEO Aaron Tartakovsky, an alumnus of Israel's Tel Aviv University.
The plan can save water, money and energy, especially among businesses.
“We’re starting with the building sector because buildings worldwide use 14 percent of all potable water and very few buildings recycle it,” Tartakovsky continued. “The best place to start the change is where people live and work. Once you change the public’s perception, that change can reverberate outward beyond cities and to other industries.”
The idea has attracted the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates is always concerned with how humans live on the planet), as well as corporations around the world and even the White House. CleanTec says its first U.S. pilot will be in a skyscraper in San Francisco. The company is establishing a new treatment plant in Brazil and working on a project in India. About 2.4 billion people around the world currently don't have access to sanitation; this could change that.
“If you were an alien looking at what humans are doing on a daily basis, you wouldn’t believe your eyes," Levy explained. "Going to the toilet, mixing one to four gallons of drinkable water with the waste, piping it somewhere else and wasting so much money and energy making drinkable water from water that was once drinkable."
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