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Have a Seat! It's World Toilet Day

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By: A.E.Cote

Most of us in America are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, November 22. We’re polishing the silver, and setting up the dreaded ‘kids table’ in the living room. But there’s an equally important yes lesser known holiday that deserves some press. Today Monday, November 19th is World Toilet Day! Yes, when biology and holidays collide, we all have a lot to be thankful for.

So why a holiday to stop and reflect on the engineering marvel that is the toilet? Plushy seats aside, it’s true that nearly 2.5 billion people do not have access to something most of us take for granted. It’s easy to see why we’d be alarmed with this. As a matter of fact, here’s some incredibly terrifying toilet trivia:

• In many developing countries, there are only public toilets you must pay to use. Some folks treat themselves to a twice daily visit, while many head to the nearest bucket or hole.
• As if that weren’t unpleasant enough, the ‘group’s’ residents must take turns emptying the sewage pits weekly with their bare hands. (source: global post)
• Not shuddering yet? Imagine that sewerage being dumped into your water supply. It happens, and is a major health issue for many people.
But we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief now that eight schools are working night and day – stopping only to go to the bathroom- to solve the problem! The Gates Foundation has awarded over $45 million dollars in the pursuit of the perfect potty. Are you an independent scientist, entrepreneur, or inventor? Sorry, but you’re sh@@ out of luck. Only institutions of higher academic pursuit receive this kind of financial grant.

It’s a play on words, since this post is loaded with them, but for your appraisal some of the heady solutions:
• A toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water
• Turning the toilet into an electricity generator for local use
• A urine-diverting toilet that recovers clean water on site
• A community bathroom block that mineralizes human waste and recovers clean water,
nutrients, and energy
• A community scale biochar production plant fed by human waste
• A toilet that uses mechanical dehydration and smoldering of feces to recover resources
and energy
• A solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity for local use
• A pneumatic flushing urine-diversion dehydration toilet
• You can read more about them here: (source:http://www.gatesfoundation.org/watersanitationhygiene/Documents/wsh-reinvent-the-toilet-challenge.pdf)

It’s unimaginable that in 2012 we still have so many people without basic necessities. We’ll be sure to update any progress the scientific teams are making. But in the meantime, even if you have to put up with your annoying Aunt Bessie this Thanksgiving, you probably have a toilet. That’s a lot to be thankful for.