In January, on his blog, Bill Gates declared “This Ingenious Machine Turns Feces Into Drinking Water.” What Gates was referring to was the Janicki Omni Processor (JOP), a radical reworking of a sewage treatment plant that’s now making a huge difference during its pilot in Africa.
Designed and built by Gates team partners Janicki Bioenergy, the JOP caught the internet by storm when Gates himself toured the headquarters and posted a video of him famously drinking water that, only ten minutes before, was straight up poop sludge.
This week, Gates revisited the topic to inform the masses how “the machine that turns feces into water” is faring in its trial run in Dakar, Senegal.
The answer is really well.
Thus far, the JOP is working as hoped with promising results. This could be the first step in helping the rural areas of Africa, which is by no means a remotely short or easy process. But one good step can lead to another. And while the tech is fascinatingly complex, the goal is simple: reduce disease in poverty-stricken countries and ultimately save lives.
However, Gates and team recognize that rich-world solutions aren’t exactly feasible in poor countries, given that “they require too much expensive infrastructure.” But their aim is to keep working toward affordable sanitation. Their Dakar partners, especially the national sanitation utility, Gates says, have been sublime in their efforts, as they too want to fix a major problem in their country’s poorer areas.
The problem is that toilets in the developing world are typically located over pits, and as Janicki notes on their site, “Too often, the dumping site for the sewage is a river, stream, bay, ocean, etc., with no further treatment whatsoever. This creates a huge problem. The sewage contaminates the drinking water, causing people to get sick.”
What may be most impressive here is that not only is the JOP a jaw-dropping technological feat, but Gates and Janicki are already looking at the next phase.
“The technology just keeps getting better,” Gates writes. “The next version of the machine will burn most types of garbage in addition to human waste, and it will be easier to maintain.”