It sounds, at first, like a joke, but California inventor Glenwood L. Garvey isn't kidding. He has designed -- and is marketing -- a self-cleaning rest room under the auspices of his aptly named two-year-old start-up, Self-cleaning Environments USA, in Santa Monica, Calif. Like a gigantic dishwasher cum telephone booth, the self-cleaning rest room seals itself up and sanitizes itself with high-pressure water jets. The whole process takes about 15 minutes from rinsing to drying and uses about 10 to 12 gallons per cycle (the same as most dishwashers do). Total cost in resources? About $1.50 per use, far less than the cost of paying a human being to clean the space, and consistently more hygienic, claims Garvey. Currently, the appliance, which is fully accessible to the handicapped, retails for $35,000, but within five years it will be available for $15,000. The company is initially targeting service stations and fast-food chains, for which a spotless bathroom would be a significant marketing advantage. Garvey and his partner, G. Noah Newmark, originally self-funded the project with $3.25 million, and recently raised an additional $3 million through a private placement. They project sales of 200 units their first year and 10,000 by year five.

-- Alessandra Bianchi

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