Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Toilet Replacement Program Rant

For those of you who know me, you know I wrote a kid’s book about water called One Well: the Story of Water on Earth. Well, after over a year of touring Canada and the US preaching about water conservation, this past January, I finally replaced my own toilet tank. I am now the proud owner of a 4.5L/flush tank.

After the toilet was successfully installed, I dutifully applied for the City of Toronto’s Residential Toilet Rebate offer. Through this offer, residents are given an incentive for switching City approved toilets – essentially 60-75 dollars cash back to offset the cost of purchasing a new low flush toilet. The toilet I selected was indeed one of the “approved” models so I applied for the rebate. I was going to switch anyway – but a rebate is a rebate!

Now here’s the twist. I only replaced the tank, not the bowl...because, in my mind, since I have a two piece toilet and my toilet bowl was in perfect form, there was no need to replace the bowl. Replacing the toilet bowl would only mean unnecessarily throwing out something that still worked well and adding it to landfill. With the new tank, the toilet flushed beautifully and I now only use 4.5L of water/flush, saving about 8.5 L of water with every flush. And the toilet has never required the dreaded double flush.

About a week ago, my application for a rebate came back to me and was DENIED. Why? You guessed it, because I didn’t replace both parts of my toilet. I decided to call the city, because frankly, I don’t see the logic in encouraging people to replace a part of their toilet that does not need replacing! Seems rather wasteful and counter-intuitive to me, wouldn’t you agree?

It took over two weeks to finally speak to a real live which point they just confirmed what was mailed to me. The rebate only applies if you replace both the toilet bowl and toilet tank. I argued that while replacing the tank helps conserve water, replacing a perfectly good toilet bowl only further adds to landfill issues, which leach toxins and chemicals into groundwater, thus polluting water and therefore negating any positive effects of switching to low flow toilets.

The city’s water woman’s response was “(paraphrased)...Our purpose is first to conserve water – it’s not that we don’t care about landfills, but that is not our concern. We are looking at conserving water.” Can you believe the short-sightedness of this?

She further went on to explain that they test bowls and tanks together and cannot verify that a tank with a mismatched bowl won’t be double flushed. Well frankly, once an approved toilet (tank and bowl) are in a person’s house, the city can’t verify our flushing habits (can they?? Big Brother, perhaps?). Nor can they verify any modifications anyone might make to their so-called approved toilet tanks and bowls once they are installed.

This City’s program seems flawed. While encouraging people to replace toilets and mandating that both the tank AND bowl must be replaced to qualify for the rebate, they are actively trying to solve one problem – water conservation – but just as actively exacerbating another – landfill.

I wonder – how many toilet bowls have unnecessarily made their way into landfill sites since Toronto’s Residential Toilet Replacement Program came into being? I wonder – how many people have replaced both parts of their toilets, just to qualify for the rebate? Do the numbers of toilet bowls now in landfills justify the amount of water conserved?

Perhaps one solution is to modify the program so that the City encourages simply replacing the toilet tank where possible...because after all, it’s the tanks that are the real culprits here. Maybe a two pronged incentive program is more environmentally sound? It sure might keep a lot of toilet bowls from unnecessarily going down the drain...

No comments: