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Greener Restrooms


Almost as well-known as the old 3R’s—reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic, the new 3R’s—recycle, reuse and reduce—are on just about everyone’s mind, including store owners. Although things can vary from location to location, when it comes to stores, and specifically store restrooms, there is much that can be recycled, reused and reduced.

“In one way or another, just about every material used to build a facility can be recycled,” said Klaus Reichardt, founder and managing partner of Waterless Co. LLC, manufacturer of no-water urinals and other restroom products. “And what might have been unusual just a couple of years ago, like recycling toilets and urinals, is actually becoming quite commonplace today.”

One way retailers are enhancing restroom recycling programs is by using paper products made from recycled materials. Bathroom tissue, paper towels, facial tissues and even paper-based cleaning cloths are all now available and made from post-consumer-waste recycled content.

“Using recycled materials means fewer trees must be cut down, gasoline and energy use is reduced, as are greenhouse emissions and tons and tons of solid waste,” Reichardt said. “This also saves millions of gallons of water necessary to make the paper products.”

Finding ways to reuse restroom-related products is currently in its early stages; however, it appears growth is inevitable. One area that has shown promise is “gray water.” Collected from kitchen and restroom sinks, showers and washing machines, gray water is commonly used for landscaping—especially in arid parts of the United States. (A note of caution: The use of gray water is not legal in all states.)

Retailers also can reuse flooring and ceiling tiles elsewhere in the facility, or donate them to local community groups. While toilets and urinals can be recycled, such fixtures are made to last for years. And today, many are being retrofitted with water-reducing components, allowing them to last for years using considerably less water than when they were first manufactured.

According to many environmental groups, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, source reduction will evolve into the No. 1 way all types of facilities, including retail stores, can help protect the environment. It reduces waste generation and helps promote sustainability more than any of the other 3R’s. Fortunately, in store restrooms, there are many source-reduction strategies that are also very effective.

“Of course, at the top of the list is water efficiency,” Reichardt added. “Replacing the old toilets with water-conserving models, and the urinals with low-flow, or even more efficient, no-water urinals is both a water- and a cost-savings. In just one year, a typical urinal can use 40,000 gallons of water.”

Other source-reduction suggestions include:

Using touchless, infrared activated faucets. The amount of water they release can be regulated, and water stops as soon as hands are removed;

Installing warm-air hand dryers. New, energy-efficient, high-pressure models that dry hands completely in 10 to 15 seconds are now available.

Using motion sensors in restrooms is becoming commonplace because they have been proven to save energy;

Using coreless tissue-dispensing systems allow for 100% paper usage with little or no stub-roll waste and limited amounts of packaging materials;

Selecting restroom products made from recycled materials. For example, restroom partitions made from egg cartons are available, and some urinals are now manufactured with soybean resin, which reduces the need for porcelain.

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