Kohler Co. and the California Institute of Technology’s Solar-Powered Toilet Heads to India Toilet Fair

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In conjunction with World Water Day, Kohler Co. and Caltech embrace the next milestone of a more than two-year collaborative journey in the development of a photovoltaic toilet as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This next stage of the project takes the team and its two toilet units from Pasadena, California to Delhi, India for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair – a showcase of the projects funded through the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The system includes a self-contained water purification and disinfection system that allows water to be reused and does not require wastewater disposal.

In preparation for its official debut, Kohler and Caltech put the final touches on the unit – including the installation of plumbing products and exterior design. Every detail of this container from the specific plumbing products used inside to the décor of the exterior was carefully chosen to best assimilate the Indian culture, as it will be installed and tested in India after the Fair.

“Global sanitation is an issue that needs to be addressed, and we are proud to be a part of what the Gates Foundation is doing to increase awareness and inspire solutions,” says Rob Zimmerman, sustainability manager for Kohler Co. “Regardless of the technology developed, cultural acceptance of the solution is the key to its success. We put a lot of time and thought into how to best achieve that.”

Zimmerman’s reference to the solution to cultural acceptance concerns stems from the company’s extensive collaboration with its Indian marketing experts and designers. Kohler’s global experience brought an insight into Indian culture to the project with Caltech. Kohler’s Indian team assisted in choosing region-specific plumbing products as well as guidance on the overall décor to ensure that the Indian communities who will participate in field testing of the units will be more accepting of the new technology.

Reinvent the Toilet Challenge
In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started their Reinvent the Toilet Challenge with the intent of funding projects to address health and sanitation issues in the developing world. The program was created to design toilets that capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price.

The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge is an effort to develop next-generation toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it. The program recognizes researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.

To date, the Gates Foundation has funded 16 research institutions across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

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