It’s not something that you’d think of initially (and there were a few “potty jokes” going around about it), but since 2012, Colorado Springs Utilities has been collecting old, broken or unwanted toilets and offering a rebate for a WaterSense toilet. It saves customers money on utilities bills by saving 6,900 gallons of water or more per year. But what CSU does with the toilets after customers hand them over may surprise you.

The porcelain is crushed into 3/4-inch pieces then used for road base–an aggregate mixture that lies beneath the asphalt. “This product has structural stability,” said Frank Kinder, senior conservation specialist at Colorado Springs Utilities. “It has good weight, and it has moisture qualities that allow it to be very stable. It’s heavy, too, so it’s a good component of old construction and new construction.”

The pilot program started in 2012 and Kinder said it has been a boom to the local conservation community. CSU won an award in 2012 for the program from the Colorado Association of Recycling.

Since the program began, CSU has processed more than 12,000 toilets and urinals amounting to nearly 1 million pounds diverted from a landfill and now utilized for road base and also as a concrete additive. The crushed porcelain material was used in Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority paving projects.

Colorado Springs is among a handful of cities implementing a porcelain recycling program, and the utility has made presentations to other organizations around the country.

The product is free for contractors and environmentally safe, and the program reduces landfill waste. Perhaps equally important in Colorado’s high desert where water is at a premium, customers receive an incentive for utilizing a water-saving toilet, and also save on future water bills. It’s estimated that the 12,000 toilets put into CSU’s paving program save their customers more than 80 million gallons of water each year!

Understandably, CSU officials are flushed with pride! (Sorry…we just couldn’t resist!)