By Mary Mazzoni on Mar 5, 2012

Streets Made From Toilets: Gross or Green?


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This sidewalk may look like most others you've seen, but it's actually made from 400 recycled toilets. Photo: The City of Bellingham, Wash.

Cities are testing out some pretty crazy materials for road construction in an attempt to go green – porous asphalt, recycled roofing shingles and even plastic bottles.

Here’s one more to add to the list: The city of Bellingham, Wash. just completed a pedestrian walkway incorporating recycled porcelain from more than 400 crushed toilets that were diverted from a local landfill.

A sidewalk made from toilets may inspire an initial ick-factor, but using recycled materials helped the city save loads of cash and natural resources on their redevelopment project.

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The potty-paving process began by feeding more than 400 toilets rescued from a local landfill into a processing machine, which crushes tossed toilets and recovers porcelain material for reuse. Photo: The City of Bellingham, Wash.

The “potty sidewalk” was part of the six-block Meador Kansas Ellis Trail Project in downtown Bellingham, which also included other sustainable elements like porous pavement and LED street lighting. The city even paved roads with asphalt containing 30 percent recycled materials.

While the idea of a sidewalk made of crushed commodes may sound groundbreaking enough, that’s not the only first here.

The project is also one of the first to pursue Greenroads™ certification and the first ever to attain it – coming away with the third-party organization’s Silver Certification award, the Greenroads Foundation announced on Wednesday.

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The city is far from embarrassed of its unconventional building material. This "Poticrete Sidewalk" plaque is placed prominently on the finished walking path. Photo: The City of Bellingham, Wash.

The Greenroads™ program, which began as a research project in the University of Washington’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2007 and expanded after partnering with engineering firm CH2M Hill in 2008, is similar to the LEED program for green buildings. It uses a points rating system to assess sustainability and awards projects with Certified, Silver, Gold and Evergreen certifications.

In addition to the potty-paved sidewalks, 12 projects are currently pursuing Greenroads™ certification globally, ranging from new construction to reconstruction to overlay and bridge projects.

Visit the Greenroads Foundation online for more information about the rating system and to learn more about current projects pursuing certification.

READ: Skiing on Sewage: Gross or Green?


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