Why Barrie gives away free toilets


Exactly a year ago, Barrie gave its first free toilet to a city homeowner. The deal was simple. It was a six-litre toilet to replace a conventional toilet that used more than three times as much water. The homeowner paid for a plumber to install the new toilet at a fixed rate arranged by the city. And the city kept the old toilet.

The goal is to replace toilets in 15,000 households in Barrie, half the total, within three years.

The reason: it will allow Barrie to delay building a new sewage treatment plant for five years, save it millions of dollars, and conserve water.

Conservation of water is important to Barrie. It draws its water from an underground aquifer. Sooner or later, with its huge growth rate, it will have to tap into Lake Simcoe for water. Switching toilets not only delays expansion of the sewage treatment plant, it also delays construction of a plant to pump water from Lake Simcoe.

One year later, 6,400 toilets have been replaced in 4,000 households and conversions are proceeding so well that Barry Thompson, the energy and environment officer in the Municipal Works Department, who is in charge of the program, is hopeful the remaining 11,000 households can be converted in the next two years.

The city pays $200 for each toilet and homeowners can choose the make, style, and color they want. And they can get up to three toilets replaced. The plumbers charge $53 for one toilet, $85 for two, and $112 for three.

The old toilets are taken to where torn up asphalt and concrete are crushed for use in roadbeds. The city has tested the old toilets and, once crushed, they’re suitable for roadbeds.

What’s fascinating are the financial figures. Because a four-person household will use about 200 litres less water a day, it will recover in one year what it cost to have the toilet installed. Barrie charges a dollar a cubic metre for water, so the household saving will be $73 a year. Here’s how the city does its calculations. The cost of supplying the toilets comes to $2.7 million and they will reduce flow to the sewage treatment plant by 2,500 cubic metres a day. The cost of increasing the plant’s capacity by that much would come to $3 million. So the toilet program is cheaper.

Moreover, there’s an added bonus. The city maintains a reserve fund for construction projects. Expansion of the plant will add 20,475 cubic metres a day of capacity and cost $27 million. Delay means that for five years some of the money earmarked for construction can be diverted to other projects. It also means that what stays in the fund will earn interest, and that can add up to a nice fat windfall.

It’s a prime example of how environmental initiatives make economic sense.


Once more, Burt Yeo has found a way to reduce waste at Mother Parkers, the big, private-label, coffee roasting maufacturer in Mississauga .

Yeo is warehouse manager with a homeyness echoing his New Brunswick roots and a deep urge, in his words, to make a contribution.

I wrote about him last January. At that point his success in recycling waste was 94.7 per cent. Of the 680,000 kilograms of waste generated every year, only 38,000 kilograms went for disposal — 16,000 kilograms to Peel Region’s landfill site and 22,000 kilograms to the region’s steam generating plant for burning.

Among the materials sent for burning were 12,000 kilograms of rigid carboard cores from rolls of packaging used to bag coffee. Now the cores are being recycled. After a little pushing from Yeo, the supplier picks them up when it delivers new rolls and returns them to the manufacturer, Smurfit Papertube in Kingston.

Accrding to Peter Young, Smurfit’s production manager, the cores are made from recycled paper and the glues are water soluble. So when Smurfit gets them back, it shreds and and mixes them with its own recycled waste which it sells to pulp and paper mills. The selling price goes up and down, but over time, Smurfit’s recycling does a little better than break even.

The result for Mother Parkers is that Yeo’s success rate has gone from 94.7 per cent to 96.2 per cent.

« You have to keep chasing these things,’’ says Yeo. « Maybe yesterday it was impossible, but today it’s not.’’ His sense of glee came tumbling over the phone line.

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