Reuse of sanitary appliances
A recurring topic we see appearing is the question of reusing sanitary appliances. Toilet bowls, urinals and sinsk: these shiny white, pristine elements often stand out on the heaps of young rubble on demolition sites, begging the question of their potential of reuse. Can’t we just clean them a bit and plug them back? How hard can it be to overcome a cultural hygienist bias? After all, porcelain is a very resistant material, with a potential life span off over a hundred years. In 2019 our colleagues of Rotor DC we were able to get funding to launch a research project around this topic. The research focussed more precisely on the flux of sanitary appliances in corporate interiors, where estimates show that, each year, in Belgium alone, 1.500 toilets, 500 urinals and 650 double sinks are thrown away, often not much older than a decade.
But, because the European Norms regarding dimensions and connections of sanitary elements did not change since 20 years, older sanitary models can still be used in today's installations!
Part of the research simply documented the necessary steps to carefully dismantle the toilets (a surprising observation was by the way that the higher up the toilets are in buildings like office towers, the cleaner they remain). Afterwards, a cleaning procedure was established, by experimenting on a batch of 150 toilets made available to Rotor DC by Jacques Delens. First, a series of repetitive exercises of toilet dissections was necessary to understand the different forms and locations of the limescale on and in the bowls. Second, different limescale removers where tested, to find the sweet spot between removing the limescale, and preserving the glazing of the porcelain.
The study also puts a light on the challenge to compete economically with new toilet bowls. It is here that the results become less positive, as it appeared that the reuse of sanitary appliances is not really a gold mine, with prices for dismantling and cleaning being more or less similar to prices for the more qualitative, new models. Reuse is perfectly possible, but without other incentives, it will probably remain limited to motivated building owners…
Rotor DC team
Daniel Van Drimmelen with the help of the whole Rotor DC team