Bill Gates: Toilet Evangelist

Microsoft founder's foundation spearheads effort to promote sanitary disposal of human waste

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They're putting money behind the effort:

* A $3 million grant supporting eight universities in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America to finance efforts to "reinvent the toilet as a stand-alone unit without piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity—all for less than 5 cents a day."

* $42 million in new sanitation grants designed to "spur innovations in the capture and storage of waste, as well as its processing into reusable energy, fertilizer, and fresh water."

Beyond the obvious humanitarian aspects of this endeavor, the Foundation notes that proper sanitation is a sound economic investment, citing a World Health Organization study showing that each dollar invested can return $9 by making people healthier and more productive. Better sanitation cuts health care costs and reduces illness, disease, disability and premature death.

Say what you will about Gates and his business practices as co-founder and long-time CEO of Microsoft -- and fellow co-founder Paul Allen recently had plenty to say, not much of it positive -- the guy is trying to use some of his wealth these days to accomplish some good. You've got to give him that much.

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