Where old toilets go

Source: EPA’s WaterSense website

Where Old Toilets Go… If a new, water-efficient toilet sounds appealing, but you worry that throwing away your old—but functional—toilet is wasteful, you might be surprised to learn replacing an old, wasteful toilet is actually the smart thing to do. An old toilet could be wasting 4,000 gallons of water per year in your bathroom, when it could be doing something much more useful than flushing away all that water. Toilet recycling programs across the country are turning old toilets into crushed porcelain for a variety of purposes. Glass or concrete crushers at recycling facilities can process ceramic toilets into finely crushed pebbles or a slightly larger aggregate. Pebbles can be added into asphalt for paving roads, and aggregate can be used for drainage projects. Crushed porcelain not only keeps discarded toilets out of landfills and closes the recycling loop, but it also reduces the need to mine gravel, saving money and benefiting the environment. In fact, when Toronto, Ontario, used crushed toilets in landfill trenches, the city saved $8,732 by avoiding the purchase of gravel at $13.59 per metric ton. How else are old toilets used? Here are just a few examples:

  • Building Foundations – California’s Inland Empire Utilities Agency used crushed toilets in its building foundation, which helped earn a Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program.
  • Trail Pavement – San Antonio’s Calaveras Park Nature Trail is paved with the remains of 1,000 crushed porcelain toilets. In Kitchener, Ontario, the walkway through the water-wise Greenbrook Demonstration Gardens is also paved in part with crushed toilets. Reportedly, the crushed porcelain even makes trails easier to see in the dark.
  • Mulch – Crushed toilets are used as mulch in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens’ Water Saver Lane Exhibit.
  • Artificial Reefs – In Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is working with the City of Hampton and Waste Management Corporation to build an artificial oyster reef to buttress declining oyster stocks. More than 100 cubic yards of broken porcelain from toilets has been collected for the reefs.

To find out if toilet recycling is available in your community, contact your state’s municipal solid waste program.