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Turning commodes into roads   

Natalie W.  by  Natalie W.  on  6/17/2019

Saving water and reusing materials for the benefit of all customers

Toilet crushersColorado Springs Utilities employees are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to save our customers money. One of the most creative ideas I'd ever heard of came about in 2011 when an employee looked at all the old toilets we were throwing away and thought of an alternative use for them. Working internally first with our gravel production department, safety and health, and our water conservation group, we figured out a way to turn these old toilets into gravel and avoid putting them into landfills. The idea was to collect and crush old porcelain toilets as part of a rebate program offered to the citizens of Colorado Springs for installing low-flow toilets.

"All our questions were carefully analyzed using air monitoring during a demonstration which showed that this was a viable option, and could potentially impact the flow of discarded toilets to our local landfills. Repurposing roll off containers that were originally used for our water main replacement pipe, we began delivering these units to large apartment complexes undergoing low flow toilet upgrades of 50 toilets or more," said Sean Evans, supervisor of our gravel production department.

The rebate incentive ended, but the benefits of the program had proved positive. Working with local area contractors and recyclers, we've explored other collection streams to keep the program alive. To our amazement, we were met with an overwhelming response.

Today Colorado Springs Utilities provides roll offs to agencies such as Good Will Industries, El Paso Household Hazardous Waste, Mr. Rooter, Olson Plumbing and Habitat for Humanity Restore. The success of this program spread, and in 2017 Mile High Youth Corps in Denver approached us to learn about the program and explore a partnership. After a visit to our crushing operations, the management of Mile High Youth Corps leaped at the opportunity to bring the benefits of our unique program to Denver.

Mile High Youth Corp roll offIn February 2018 we signed an MOU with the Mile High Youth Corps. Leveraging the success of the porcelain program, we've assisted them with drafting a statement for a Pell Grant to help this non-profit purchase a 30-yard roll off of their own.

After a year of collection, they called us for the first pickup of the collected toilets. The collected material weighed about 11 tons or 22,00 pounds and because of the careful oversight of the Mile High Youth Corps team, the product was very clean and free of contamination. With the addition of this roll off, we have diverted 1,144 tons or 2,288,000 pounds of porcelain from Colorado landfills.

"With an average household toilet weight of 50 pounds, this equates to 45,760 toilets recycled. Partnering with PPRTA, this material is immediately used as road base in the upgraded handicap ramps, curb and gutter infrastructure throughout Colorado Springs," Evans said.

This unique program was a recipient of the Outstanding Government or Non-Profit Recycling/Diversion Program from the non-profit organization Recycle Colorado, and recognized by the Investment Recovery Association in the August 2014 web page tutorial. Thanks to the hard work and creative thinking of our employees, we have found a clever way to save our customers thousands of dollars.

Crushed  Toilets

 
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