A few years ago, one of our co-founders, Tak-Sing Wong, was approached by a group working under the Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge looking for a solution to human waste residue in low-water toilet systems. We found that most hydrophobic and superhydrophobic coatings are excellent at repelling liquid, but fall short in their ability to repel sludge-like material. So we set out to make coatings specifically to repel human waste.
According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF :
The consequences of poor sanitation and hygiene span from illness to gender inequality, and can stunt economic growth . It is urgent that action is taken to solve these problems.
To address this sanitation crisis, the United Nations has set Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” . The Gates Foundation has also made significant efforts to address this sanitation crisis by establishing the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge  -- Bill Gates even stood in front of a crowd with a jar of human waste at the Reinvent the Toilet Expo in Beijing to get the point across !
Our team members, affiliates, and collaborators developed a coating technology designed specifically to repel human waste in toilets. These were designed in an academic lab, and have since become the core technology behind spotLESS Materials. The sanitation crisis and water scarcity are coupled problems: it’s hard to flush waste away without water. We designed these coatings so that human waste does not stick to the surfaces, and any residue that does manage to stick can be washed away with 90% less water than an uncoated ceramic surface. These research efforts were recently released published in Nature Sustainability , a respected peer-reviewed scientific journal. Our hope is that these coatings can be used to help meet Sustainable Development Goal 6.
We also hope these coatings can be used in the developed world to reduce our water footprint and toll on the environment. Here are some ways you can do your part:
The more people that know about the global sanitation crisis, the more likely someone who can make a tangible difference will make a difference. Check out how you can spread the word with social media templates offered by the United Nations site dedicated to World Toilet Day: https://www.worldtoiletday.info/
While we’re spreading awareness about the global sanitation crisis, we can also make a small difference in the sustainability of our own homes by reducing our water footprint. The toilet is the largest contributor to domestic wastewater generation (for indoor activities -- e.g., not including your pool if you have one). To reduce your tank toilet’s water footprint, you can offset the flush volume using just a few simple tools:
Fill the bottle with some rocks/sand, then fill the rest with water. Cap the bottle, and put it in your tank. Now each time you flush, it will be with less water. If streaks and stains or odors from stuck waste are a problem, consider our Toilet Coating from our Home Collection. These were designed to repel human waste.
 Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygeine (2017). World Health Organization, UNICEF, WHO/UNICEF JMP.