Q: Do you know of any companies in Chicago that recycle toilets and perhaps even sinks and tubs? I would love to find a way to avoid the landfill.
– Annette Amelkovich, IL
A: Before we did our homework, Annette, we thought you were off your rocker. Who recycles a toilet? Honestly! You recycle like a maniac! Turns out though, you’re onto something — some areas do have programs that collect items like toilets, sinks and tubs, and grind the porcelain up for use as gravel road base in construction projects. Very crafty. Boulder, Colo., for example, has a Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM) that accepts tricky items such as fire extinguishers, athletic shoes, and yes, porcelain toilets. For $4-$10, Boulder residents can have their porcelain king collected for reincarnation. And in 2001, in Norfolk, Va., — where oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay have dropped by more than 98 percent over the past century — waste management collected old toilets and repurposed them to make homes for bay oysters. Toilet Salvage, a company in Los Altos, Calif., is devoted solely to recycling potties — they’ll pick yours up right from your home for only $12, disassemble and resell what’s salvageable, and mash the rest into concrete.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that no such program seems to exist in Chicago (we called some recycling programs in the area), so your best bet is to call 311 and urge your city management to hop to it! Tell them everyone else is doing it.
As a side note, H2OUSE says that if you’re replacing your old, water-guzzling toilet with an efficient one but can’t find a toilet recycling program in your area, you should take the old guy out to the trash-collection curb and smash it up. This should keep scavengers from stealing away with your toilet, and ensure that “your inefficient toilet is completely removed from the system.” We’re not sure that toilet smashing is altogether necessary, but we do like the idea of taking a baseball bat to the thing for anger management — very Office Space. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.
Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008.