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Over a year ago Bill Gates held up a beaker of human feces at the reinvented toilet expo in Beijing on November 6, 2018 to bring a message: unsanitary conditions are dangerous for our health as it was reported by Business Insider. From the outside, the toilet looks like any other pit latrine. The toilets involve no traditional flushing and aren’t hooked to a sewer system. Instead red wigglers or tiger worms or compost earthworms are introduced in a container below the toilet, and they feast on feces.

This idea is brilliant because clean water is getting to be too much a luxury to flush human feces in many countries. Giving the rest to the compost worms and the beneficial soil microbes to do their job as decomposers is a great innovation. The amazing creatures’ activity leaves behind a mix of water, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of worms’ poo or worm castings or vermicompost, Even it’s much less toxic and more nutrient-rich than ours.

Since 2015, a creative new type of toilet called the Tiger Worm has been introduced for testing in India. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $4.8 million in grant money to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for research to improve the technology and USAID supported $170 thousand for initial testing in India, Myanmar, and Uganda. “We estimated that by 2030, the opportunity here is over $6 billion a year,” Gates said.

Most of us don’t really care about Bill Gates business for other reasons, but we like this idea. Now, after years of development and field testing around the world, the technology is finally reaching people who need it most.

The facts about worm toilets or vermicomposting toilets:
– Worm toilets require no traditional flushing and aren’t hooked up to a sewer system; instead, worms compost human waste.
– More than 4,000 such Tiger Worm Toilets have been installed to date across India, in homes of people who were previously defecating in the open area.
– The worm toilets smell a lot better than a pit latrine, and don’t breed mosquitoes and germs either.
– Here’s how a $350 prototype toilet powered by worms could change the world and saves lives.
– The worms and soil microbes produce a water, carbon dioxide, and worms’ poo or worm castings, that’s much less toxic and more nutrient-rich than ours for the fertility of this planet.

Vermicomposting toilet is safe for the environment, however due to compost worm population, sustainability and fluctuation, the stabilization time will need to be proportionally adjusted until a stabilization equilibrium is obtained and maintained as confirmed by sampling analysis.

Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) and International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) Delft have been developing the Tiger Worm Toilet in Rakhine State, Myanmar since last year. This type of toilet operates at a communal level to serve up to 20 people in refugee camps. One of the biggest challenges in refugee camps is sanitation and the management of human feces. The compost worms convert the human waste into a dry and easier to handle dry worm castings or vermicompost. The photo is courtesy of IHE Delft, The Netherlands.

-Bintoro Gunadi