Something New to Recicle

A quick look back at the green evolution in the United States shows that it definitely has had its high and low points, starts and stops, although (and fortunately), it has kept moving forward. In the early 1970s, when the “ecology” movement first began and just after we had experienced our first Earth Day on Sunday, November 30, 1969, a great deal of interest and excitement was generated about protecting our environment. Young and old people were interested in making the planet a healthier place for all living things.

However, for a variety of reasons, the movement declined in the 1980s, and it was not until more than a decade later, starting in the mid-1990s, that people throughout the U.S., as well as those in many other areas of the world, felt a rekindled interest in being more environmentally responsible. Interestingly, we find that one component of the green movement — and possibly the oldest — has remained strong throughout this period and actually has continued to grow steadily over the past 35 years. That component is recycling.

This is likely because it was realized early on that recycling helps reduce pollution, conserve natural resources and energy, lower costs, and decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills. Henry Ford, best known for inventing the assembly line and builder of a massive automotive empire, was one of the first to realize this more than 80 years ago. A staunch conservationist, he was especially careful concerning how his factories used wood in the manufacture of automobiles and was an avid recycler of wood products.

Ford focused on recycling all scrap wood that entered his plants or was generated there. He created salvage departments where specially designed machinery removed nails so that wood and waste boards could be easily converted into other products. Short pieces of lumber were joined into longer lengths using a splicing plate, and wood scraps were turned into shipping containers.

Recycling has expanded dramatically since Ford’s day. Now we find that not only wood but also paper products, metals, electronic parts and products, and a host of other items are being recycled, helping to protect natural resources and foster sustainability.

And just recently, something else has been finding its way into recycling centers: old toilets and urinals. As more and more schools and other facilities remodel their restrooms, or install less water-demanding fixtures to again promote sustainability, toilets and urinals are bypassing landfills and finding their way into a host of different products.

Foundations for the Future

The Inland Empire Utilities administration building, which was built in 2003 in Chino, CA, earned LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. One way it accomplished this was by crushing old toilets and urinals and using them as part of the building’s foundation.

Similarly, in Seattle, a city program rewards building owners with tax and other credits for replacing old water-wasteful toilets and urinals with new water-conserving or no-water fixtures. The old fixtures are then ground up and used to help pave roads.

Even designers have found new uses for old toilets and urinals. In Texas, a company uses these old fixtures in terrazzo floors, and designers find they can create more varied and complex designs working with chips of toilets and urinals instead of aggregates of cement, marble, and glass, which are commonly used in terrazzo.

The Triple Bottom Line at Work

It is fortunate that we are finding new uses for old toilets and urinals at a time when more and more areas around the country are realizing they must now treat water conservation as a green issue. Large sections of the U.S. are now experiencing severe water shortages, and experts say the problem is not the result of just a “dry year.”

Older toilets and urinals can use three or more gallons of water per flush. It is estimated that just one conventional urinal uses as much as 40,000 gal. of potable water per year. In large sections of the country, this is not only wasteful but, because the cost of delivering and treating water is doubling in some communities, expensive as well.

Recycling old restroom fixtures and using them to build structures and roads helps cut construction costs. Installing low-water and no-water fixtures helps cut costs and save our most precious resource, water. And the entire process shows a greater respect for our planet and the environment, which is long overdue. This is probably why recycling has remained strong throughout the years. Its bottom-line benefits are just too obvious to overlook.

Klaus Reichardt is managing partner of Waterless Co. LLC. (, manufacturers of waterless urinals and other restroom products and fixtures. He can be contacted at 760/727-7723.


About the Author

A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt is founder and CEO of Waterless Co. Inc.(, based in Vista, CA. Reichardt founded the company in 1991 with the goal to establish a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water efficiency in mind. The company manufactures restroom and plumbing-related products.