Bill Gates’ Plan to Help the Developing World Profit From Its Sewage
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Bill Gates walks up to the water tap, but before he can drink, his entourage pulls him to one side. One woman takes off his glasses and rearranges his hair. Another dabs on a little makeup. And, at one point, someone hands him a Mason jar.
Once it’s filled with water from the tap, he takes a sip from the jar, and a Gates Foundation photographer captures the moment. Then there’s another water-sipping photo-op with Peter Janicki, the man who offered him this drink on the outskirts in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, about 70 miles north of Seattle. “It’s water!” Gates says, with mock surprise.
Bill feigns surprise because five minutes ago, the water was human waste pumped in from a local sewage facility. It was transformed into clean water by what’s called the OmniProcessor, a new kind of low-cost waste treatment plant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and designed by Janicki’s company, Janicki Bioenergy. On this November day, Gates is taking his first tour of Janicki’s contraption, which he believes can transform global sanitation. Using an innovative blend of steam power and water filtration, according to Gates and his foundation, this plant can convert up to 14 tons of sewage into potable water and electricity each day.
Now that a prototype is up and running in Washington, the foundation hopes to bring the OmniProcessor to India, Africa, and other developing parts of the world, saying that each roughly $1.5-million plant can process sewage for a community of about 100,000 people. “If you can get thousands of these things out there, then you’ve ensured the people really will grow up in a healthy way,” Gates says. “They’ll live much higher quality lives. You will save a lot of lives. And you’ll have local entrepreneurs who are maintaining these things.”