How to Recycle Porcelain Toilets

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Toilets take up space in landfills if not recycled.
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If you've never visited a landfill, it can be life-changing to see how much waste one region generates. When you think about that playing out in every city, county, state and country around the world, it's daunting. Reducing how much single-use plastic is bought and used is a major factor in improving landfill overuse, but so is rethinking what happens with construction and renovation waste, especially with key items like porcelain toilets and sinks.

What Is Porcelain, Really?

Made of kiln-baked kaolin and other clay-like materials, porcelain is more of a product of heat and tempering than it is of chemical intervention, and that's what makes it so great for recycling.

The problem with porcelain in the past was that companies didn't really have resources or methods for turning porcelain back into usable materials. Crushing it and using it as fill for construction or gardening projects has long been a solution to minimizing their impact in landfills, but rock and aggregate were often easier, and times have changed. Now, though, porcelain toilets can be processed for some impressive projects.

New Life: Recycled Porcelain Toilets

According to Environmental Leader, in New York, crushed and processed reclaimed porcelain toilets are being used as porous underfill on turf fields at schools, where they're retaining up to 500,000 gallons of stormwater annually — a potentially huge help in the era of climate change and for when rivers overrun and storms rage.

But companies like Crossville Inc. and Toto USA have spent the last decade crushing the porcelain problem with a "Tile Take-Back" program that turns old toilets and other bathroom fixtures into new ones. In one decade, they rescued over 114 million pounds of porcelain from landfills. If you're interested in the Crossville Inc. project and want to see if they'll take your loo off your hands, here's what to know, according to Crossville Inc., about their Tile Take-Back program.

Recycling Your Porcelain Toilet

This can be messy, but not as horrid as you fear. First, clean the toilet up so it's less unpleasant to work with. Then shut off the water supply, flush the toilet a few times until you exhaust the tank's water supply, unbolt it from the floor, then have a friend help you heft it out of the home. Now, give it an even more thorough cleaning.

You've got some options, so check with local civic amenities, as they may take toilets for recycling. Also contact local waste management to see what they advise. According to KOAA News 5, Colorado Springs is an example of cities using recycled toilets for construction and other projects.

If no programs exist locally, the good folks at ReStore may be able help you. ReStore is run by Habitat for Humanity, who say they rank gently-used toilets as one of their best donations, and they use profits from reselling them for building homes for those less fortunate.

But you can also recycle your toilet by upcycling it into a quirky planter. Fill the bowl and tank with soil, then plant what you like. Or don protective gear and bash it into bits to use as fill materials in your garden so your garden stays well-drained and aerated. As you can see, with a little perseverance and creativity, there's no need for your toilet to meet its demise in a landfill.

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Steffani Cameron is the daughter of a realtor and interior decorator mother and a home contractor father. Steffani is a professional writer with over five years' experience writing about the home for BuildDirect and Bob Vila. Raised with a mad love for decorating, Steffani gave up her Art Deco apartment to travel and work remotely for five years. She's in love with experiencing traditional decor around the world, including stays in Thai teak plantations on the Mekong River and cave homes in Turkey.

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