Today, some 40% of the world’s population –or around 2.5 billion people– have no access to basic sanitation. These figures provide an indication of the serious health problems that lead to some 1.5 million infant deaths per year from diarrhoea.
Given these alarming figures, in 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to promote innovative solutions to put an end to the lack of basic sanitation in developing countries.
Committed companies and institutions
Under the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge slogan, Roca and the We Are Water Foundation collaborated in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at an event at the Roca Barcelona Gallery, where 60 representatives of multinationals, industries and research institutions showcased the progress made by participating organisations.
Over the course of the first day, organisations such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Delft University of Technology, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG), the National University of Singapore, Loughborough University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Toronto, the Stanford University Climate Foundation, the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Santec, Cranfield University, Eram Scientific Solutions, RTI International, the University of Colorado Boulder, Duke University and Unilever discussed how to develop innovative and affordable technologies to improve sanitation in underdeveloped countries, particularly densely-populated urban areas.
Other issues tackled were how to reduce energy consumption, manage water saving and environmental impact, methods for emptying septic tanks and treating wastewater, new ways of reusing waste and developing sanitary solutions based on human waste that can subsequently be used to generate electricity.
Sustainability and innovation: fundamental pillars
During the second day, multinationals such as Janicki Industries, Santec LLC, Synapse Product Development, Battelle Memorial Institute, NORAM Engineering, IDEO, P&G, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, American Standard and Roca underlined the importance of the concept of collaboration to generate mutual benefit with these foundations, institutions and bodies.
To this end, concepts such as sustain- ability and concern for the environment and people’s welfare were stressed. Within this context, the role of corporations is crucial, as they can contribute knowhow, technology, research and professionals when it comes to developing initiatives that provide solutions for those lacking access to a toilet.
For our part, we at Roca stressed factors such as sustainability and innovation with the presentation of two of our most pioneering products, the W+W and the In-Tank. We stressed that we could contribute our experience in WC technology, our industrial capacity and our industrial partnerships. The role of the We Are Water Foundation, which has the mission of raising awareness of the world’s water-related problems, was also highlighted.
One of the main conclusions reached during the event was that companies selling products for the bathroom space play a very significant role in improving sanitary conditions in developing countries.