Toilet graveyard a boon for recyclers

By JOSH GREEN – Associated Press

LAWRENCEVILLE — The Toilet King, as he’s been playfully called around the office, has never seen a porcelain throne he didn’t like. He holds no grudge against the avocado-colored dinosaurs of the 1960s, the robin’s egg blue ones, the oddball yellow ones, the dying-rose pink ones. Should the toilet have been left in the yard with a bird’s nest packed inside — no matter.

The King isn’t picky. He likes to see old toilets die. His forte is to ferry them into the afterlife.

His highness is Bill Hallman, 61, warehouse manager for the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources, a laid-back grandfather of five and Navy veteran with a Col. Sanders goatee. He is the gatekeeper to an amenity that sets Gwinnett apart in metro Atlanta — a free, on-site toilet recycling drop-off.

Toilets come to Hallman from every stripe of folks imaginable, from farmhouses and apartment complexes, on average 1,800 per year. Sometimes on Mondays, after a fair-weather weekend, the toilets are waiting for him at the Winder Highway office, lined up like forgotten tombstones.

“I tell people a toilet is like an automobile,” Hallman laughed in his office, “you can get a Volkswagen, or you can get a Cadillac.”

The Cadillac of toilets, if not the Ferrari, would be the .8 gallon marvel that practically sips water. The jalopy is the circa-1950, seven-gallon antique an employee recently recycled. Big picture, those few gallons per flush, when multiplied by hundreds of thousands of households, can have a substantial impact on Gwinnett’s primary water source, Lake Lanier. The DWR’s goal is to introduce as many wasteful toilets as possible to the executioner — that is, the community service workers swinging the big sledgehammer.

Each jurisdiction in North Georgia is mandated to offer a toilet rebate program for those who replace pre-1993 toilets with more efficient new ones, which can use 1/5 as much water. Rebates are $100 per toilet, deducted from water bills (two per household; receipts required). But the opportunities to recycle the jilted old thrones are few. Some garbage haulers charge to cart toilets away, as their biodegradability falls somewhere between Keith Richards and Stone Mountain.

“It’s another way to keep a useful material from taking up space in landfills,” said DWR water conservation coordinator Heather Moody. “This is a big convenience to our customers because there are so few recycling facilities in the region.”

Launched in Gwinnett in 2007, the rebate program has accounted for nearly 11,000 upgraded toilets, which are saving more than 200,000 gallons of water per day, or 73 million gallons annually. That’s the equivalent of roughly 146 Olympic-sized pools per year not siphoned from Lake Lanier.

Since the toilet recycling drop-off opened in January last year, an estimated 2,500 thrones have met their maker.

The executioner on a recent hot day was 20-year-old probationer Francis Rivas, who donned a dirty Brookwood shirt, backward Falcons cap and a welding faceguard for protection. His job was to climb into the facility’s Dumpster and smash donated (and disinfected) toilets into tiny shards via a sledgehammer. He’d never done it before.

“It should be fun,” Rivas said, pre-game. “Being a guy, we like to smash things.”

Like a knife through butter, the sledgehammer dominated several toilets, ending their inglorious existence in seconds. The parking lot rang with sounds like dinner China dropping on the street.

“Toilets are fun to smash,” Rivas enthused afterward. “My approach was just swing big. Swing big or go home, I guess.”

So a full Dumpster fits about 600 toilets, which are further crushed with a backhoe after the sledgehammering. Seats, handles and non-porcelain innards are picked out.

The next stop en route to toilet afterlife is Patterson Services in Mableton, among the largest recyclers in the Southeast. The company charges $300 to retrieve a load, which is the only cost Gwinnett County incurs for the recycling program, Hallman said.

The toilets of Gwinnett are fed into what’s called a cone crusher, becoming the finished product, crushed porcelain. Owner Ken Patterson said that product then has two options: It will be landscape gravel, or an aggregate stone. Those thrones that go the latter route will be a sub-base for the asphalt roads we drive, a moisture barrier under commercial and residential concrete slabs — or even cement kitchen countertops.

“A lot of people like the little white stripes in (the countertops),” Patterson said.

The process, in the estimation of the Toilet King, is a win-win.

“It’s well worth it for us,” Hallman said. “We’re the winner, because we’re getting our water.”

Do toilets go to heaven? by

Toilet –> Tile –> Trendy.

One rarely ponders the life and death of a toilet. Just like some kids ask if dogs go to heaven, I wonder where toilets go when their lifespan is up. For some of them, the answer is a Whole Foods juice bar. Fireclay Tile, a Northern California-based ceramic tile company, uses recycled materials such as porcelain from local used toilets to create its product. According to their website, “All products are handmade within Fireclay’s day-lit, open air factory where the company reuses everything including clays, glazes and waste water.”

toilet1 1024x768 Toilet   > Tile   > Trendy

Ok, pause. Why is going around collecting old toilets and making them into counter tops for yuppies important?

Answer: Throwing away large clunky items like toilets contributes to our problem of overflowing landfills. Instead, we should do everything we can to waste less and reuse more. Turning a toilet into a tile does just that because by reusing the porcelain, Fireclay lowers the amount of pollution that would otherwise be emitted by creating all new material from scratch. Also, the company only uses things it can find from nearby sources which significantly reduces its carbon footprint.

Point is- recycling, reusing, and buying local does not only apply to soda cans, plastic bags, and vegetables. People are creating innovative ways to do their part for the planet all the time using their own unique talents. Cool.


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.