• 03.09.12

These Sidewalks Are Made Out Of Toilets

For cities that aren’t flush with money, using crushed porcelain to build roads can lead to cheaper roads and less landfills.

Ever wonder where old toilets go to die? We’d like to direct your attention towards Bellingham, Washington, where the city is using crushed, recycled toilets to make new sidewalks. The toilet sidewalk concoction–a mixture of recycled porcelain, asphalt, and gravel–is called “poticrete.”


Bellingham is using 400 crushed toilets diverted from landfills in its sidewalks as part of the Meador Kansas Ellis Trail Project–the first project to receive Greenroads Certification, which is kind of like a LEED certification for road projects.

According to the city, poticrete costs the same as using virgin materials from gravel pits (the sidewalks cost $80,000 to complete). All of the toilets came from housing facilities that upgraded their toilets and didn’t know what to do with the old ones.

The Meador Kansas Ellis Trail Project went above and beyond the poticrete project to get its Greenroads certification–it also installed porous pavement to treat water runoff and put in low-energy LED lights. There are currently 12 projects pursuing certification, which comes in four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Evergreen. More information on Greenroads can be found here.

Believe it or not, Bellingham isn’t the first town to use crushed toilets in its sidewalks, though it does get points for the clever poticrete name. Fort Collins, Colorado, has been crushing toilets and mixing them with asphalt and recycled concrete for years. In 2009 alone, the city recycled 2,000 toilets, thanks at least in part to a program that offers cash to residents giving up old toilets for low-flow versions.

If Bellingham’s poticrete experiment pans out (in other words, if the sidewalks hold up), the city expects to construct even more toilet-filled sidewalks in the future.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.