About the Reinvented Toilet (RT) Technology Portfolio

The development of the RT technology portfolio was initiated through BMGF’s 2011 Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC). The Challenge aimed to spur development of a toilet that:

  • Removes germs from human waste and recovers valuable resources such as energy, clean water, and nutrients.
  • Operates “off the grid” without connections to water, sewer, or electrical lines.
  • Costs less than US$.05 cents per user per day.
  • Promotes sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services and businesses that operate in poor, urban settings.
  • Is a truly aspirational next-generation product that everyone will want to use—in developed as well as developing nations.

A range of investments resulted from the RTTC and the current BMGF WSH portfolio is composed of core-processing technologies (back-end components), front-end components (e.g., interfaces), sensors, menstrual hygiene management tools, among others. The components are integrated into complete toilet units for both single-unit reinvented toilets (SURT) and multi-unit reinvented toilets (MURT) settings. The portfolio is at various stages of product development from nine technology partners. Learn more about the investments and partners in the Reinvented Toilet portfolio here.

Below we summarize the range of information produced in the STeP platform describing our understanding of the market and user needs for the Reinvented Toilet in the following sections:

What is the global market opportunity for the Reinvented Toilet technologies?

According to a 2017 report by the WHO and UNICEF, “some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation”. The Reinvented Toilet technologies represent a meaningful and accessible business opportunity that can both drive revenue growth and contribute to alleviating human suffering. We have characterized the social impact and market opportunity in the range of reports below.

How do the Reinvented Toilet technologies compare against existing sanitation solutions?

When we look at today’s solutions, from the most basic hanging toilets and pits, to flush toilets connected to septic tanks or sewers and wastewater treatment plants, we see a wide range of challenges including safety, environmental contamination, water usage, and cost. The Reinvented Toilet is a modular, transformative technology that offers a non-sewered sanitation solution that fills a critical gap in the portfolio of sanitation options available today.

Who are the potential buyers and users of the Reinvented Toilet technologies?

Given the global nature of the sanitation challenges today and the breadth of technologies in the portfolio, the Reinvented Toilet technologies may be a viable commercial opportunity in many different countries across multiple customer segments around the world. When looking to understand the market opportunity for the RT in a given market, it is critical to assess that opportunity within potential customer segments / use cases. Specifically, striving to understand what aspects of the Reinvented Toilet value proposition resonate most with each discrete customer segment is an important part of the process to validate the market need and the RT’s ability to fulfill that need. Several studies illustrate the potential segments in the market and what we know of each segment.

What are key go-to-market considerations to drive towards commercialization of the Reinvented Toilet?

While the Reinvented Toilet technologies presents a large multibillion annual market opportunity, realizing this commercial potential will require addressing the usual challenges associated with creating a new product category in potentially a new geographic area. The Market Insights reports aim to provide a comprehensive view of the RT opportunity in a given urban market, incorporating a variety of methods such as stakeholder mapping, customer segmentation, and interviews in order to develop go-to-market recommendations for partners including business model options, regulatory impact, and local partnership opportunities in target geographies.

What are the key technical features and tradeoffs users would expect?

While all the SURT and MURT technologies are required to meet certain common specifications (e.g. destruction of pathogen on-site), there are still a number of differences among the technologies including size, maintenance requirements, types of by-products, and others. A number of studies have been conducted to understand the types of technical features and tradeoffs different customer segments in select geographies may expect, which may inform product design and go-to-market strategy.