Something New to Recicle
- By Klaus Reichardt
- January 1st, 2008
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
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
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.
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.
(www.waterless.com), manufacturers of waterless urinals and other restroom
products and fixtures. He can be contacted at 760/727-7723.
A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt is founder and CEO of Waterless Co. Inc.(www.waterless.com), 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.