Dutch companies have devised a way to recycle toilet into construction materials.
It is commonplace to manufacture toilet paper out of recycled paper, but it could soon also be commonplace to manufacture raw materials out of recycled toilet paper. Although the concept has a strong ick factor, recycled toilet paper could soon join other recycled materials, such as travel bags made from old truck tires and clothing made from plastic shopping bags.
In June, Dutch companies CirTec and KNN Cellulose launched a two-year pilot project, dubbed Cellvation, to study the financial feasibility of recycling used toilet paper. The project, which was underwritten with money from a European Union grant, will extract around 400 kg of cellulose from raw sewage each day. The cellulose is cleaned and sterilized, then turned into pellets which can be used as construction materials. In one demonstration project, the cellulose was mixed with asphalt and used to pave a bicycle path. Adding a dose of cellulose into the mixture helps the asphalt stick to stones before it fully hardens and it can also make roadways less slippery when it rains.
The Netherlands is the perfect test case for recycling toilet paper. According to the country’s water authorities, around 180,000 tons of toilet paper are flushed each year, and much of this is luxury paper, which contains high-quality cellulose. CirTec hopes that the project could eventually pay for itself in two ways. One is through sales of the cellulose. A small amount is already being exported to the UK, where it is being used as raw material to produce bio-composites. In addition, CirTec hopes that removing the heavy cellulose from the water treatment system will lower the operational cost of treating sewage and make it easier to treat the water that remains. What other uses could there be for recycled cellulose?