Poop into Drinking Water

Poop into Drinking Water

Bill Gates sponsors a machine that turns poop into drinking water.

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Omni Processor is a name proposed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a group of physical, biological or chemical treatment processes to process fecal sludge – a mixture of human excreta and water – in developing countries. One of the main treatment aims is pathogen removal to stop the spread of disease from fecal sludge.

The term was created by staff of the Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012. It is not a trade mark for one specific product or technology. Several research teams are currently developing various types of omni processors with funding from the foundation. Examples of technologies which Omni Processors may employ include combustion, supercritical water oxidation and pyrolysis.

The term "omni" in its name refers to the fact that an Omni Processor machine can process a variety of waste streams or fuel sources.

Since 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been funding research into what they have named "Omni Processors". An Omni Processor (OP) is any of various types of technologies that treat fecal sludge, also known as septage. The aim of the treatment is to remove all pathogens and at the same time to generate outputs of commercial value. These beneficial products can be energy and soil nutrients and might have the potential to allow a development of local business and revenue. The soil nutrients could be used as a form of reuse of excreta in agriculture. The Omni Processor program targets community scale solutions that may combine fecal sludge and solid waste processing. It complements the foundation's pit latrine emptying ("Omni-Ingestor") and "Reinvent the Toilet" investment programs.

The Omni Processor is targeted as a solution for developing countries, although challenges around technical and financial aspects remain. Omni Processors and Omni Ingestors are being designed to provide an alternative to sewerage system-based technologies. They are also intended to address the large number of existing pit latrines which lack a supporting infrastructure of fecal sludge collection and processing when the pits are full. Sludge from pit latrines has to be removed from the pits for treatment and disposal either by pumping (if the fecal sludge is sufficiently liquid) or by manual emptying with shovels or other devices (in India, this practice is called manual scavenging). Despite new low-cost pumps being developed, only a small fraction of sludge is safely extracted and treated currently in many African and Asian cities.

It will be necessary to adapt established technologies in ways to fit developing world communities. The success of such technologies will depend on how well the process is managed.

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