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empty cans after recycling paint at Johnson county kansas environmental facility

How to Safely Dispose of Paint: Johnson County Kansas does it right

Solvents, and pigments and paint, oh my! Ten years worth of old paints, stains, pesticides and other unspeakables had been gathering rust and dust in my basement and the time had come to deal with them. In my particular suburbia of Johnson County, Kansas, the question of what to do with my personal hazmat generates an increasingly rare answer: “We can help you with that!”

With an appointment residents can drop off a long list of bad stuff at a facility located in the the county’s oldest wastewater treatment plant. (Businesses and other non-residents must apply for the program.) My appointment was this past weekend, so I loaded up an embarrassing amount of half-full containers of nasty what-not and headed out!

entrance gate Johnson County kansas environmental hazmat disposal facility

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The Legality of Toilet Planters: Answer Man Tackles the Question

Now who could be opposed to reuse and recycling? Go green, woo hoo! Just don’t go green where you , uh, you know, go!

A toilet planter via VTscapes on Flickr

Is it a tad enviro-ugly if your neighbor reuses an out-to-pasture  toilet for a whimsical planter? Surely there’s a law! A code? Something? A regulatory loophole somewhere that would prevent such a tasteless display in your well-manicured suburban oasis?

The complex legal issues surrounding toilet planters were covered in a recent post to “Answer Man” in Rochester, Minnesota’s PostBulletin.com…and we don’t think the questioner will be happy with the lawyer-approved answer!

Dear Answer Man, is it legal to plant flowers in an old toilet and keep it in your front yard in this lovely city of ours? A neighbor recently did this and it doesn’t do much to enhance the otherwise nice, well-kept neighborhood. In fact, I cringe every day when I drive by it. I could see maybe in the backyard or at the end of a long, dirt road, but in the middle of northwest Rochester? Please help me to clear the air.

I’m always happy to flush out the truth. To help with the flushing, I called City Attorney Terry Adkins, who said it was the very first time in his career that he’s heard this question.

There’s no ordinance to prohibit the use of a toilet as a flower pot, but a few lines in the city housing code get close to the mark. “The open area of your premises must be kept in a reasonably clean and neat condition, including the removal of all inoperable machines, appliances, fixtures and equipment,” the code says.

“I suppose someone could make the argument that a toilet out there is inoperable” and thus violates the code, Terry says. But then he called the city building safety department. Amazingly, “they have received some complaints (historically) and have taken the position that it’s not a violation of the ordinance,” reasoning that the “fixture” in this case is “operable” because it’s loaded with plants.

If it wasn’t used as a planter and was simply in the front yard, presented as a Duchampian work of art, it presumably would be illegal. At least that’s the response of the city.

And in my idyllic suburbia? I come down squarely in favor of toilet planters; in fact, I have one of my own, though please note that my interpretation uses only the tank and is displayed privately in my backyard. (Happily filled with impatiens right now.)

gayle leonard's flower planter made from a recycled toilet tank

I’ll bet the toilet gardener in question imagines they are quite creative, but the idea is not unique; a quick search on Flickr produces a ton of dirt on the topic!

The Phattest Water Butt of All

It should surprise no one (but delight everyone) that some clever person has produced a water butt in the shape of a butt. (Note for the non-Brits: Water Butt = Rain Barrel).

What really makes the smartly-named “Butt Butt” a standout, though, is the wicked tramp-stamp tattoo decoration! Well done, chap! Just a bit unfortunate on the spigot placement, though. Tell me, how much would it cost to haul Butt to the US?

Redneck Reuse: Toilet Tank Planter

Hooray for redneck reuse! Isn’t it grand to live in an age in which you can park broken toilet parts in your garden  and be viewed as eco-aware rather than just trashy and tacky! (My family still claims this is decidedly more tacky than trendy!)

For “Fix a Leak Week” this year my pathetic DIY debacle cracked the toilet tank, necessitating a full toilet replacement. But that tank is now rejoicing in it’s more glamorous second life as a planter. (The bowl? Gone to the landfill; even I will admit that’s going too far!)

Plus…don’t forget to repurpose packing materials for planter drainage!

Goon Idea for Canadian Toilet Reuse!

(Note: that’s not a typo!) A tweet this week from World Toilet Day (@worldtoiletday) sought some group-think ideas on toilet reuse. Not toilet-to-tap recycled water, but actual toilets!

And yes, I did have a suggestion: head-snapping, thought-provoking public artwork similar to this too-odd-to-describe installation in China! So, get ready, Toronto, and visionary Canadian artists, please step forward!

Photos are via www.halohalo.ph, self-described as “The Funniest Filipino Blog.” They live up to their description with this hysterical commentary on the sculpture:

Thousand of toilet sculpture in China. I’m not surprise when i saw this sculpture because everybody knows that Chinese people are goon on this.

When a Plain-Jane Rain Barrel Simply Won’t Do

Saving water is stylish now! And a consequence of that is more high-design products with which to stylishly save water! While that DIY-hacked, second-hand barrel you dragged from the dump is still perfectly functional, you should know that it’s so last year. The formerly humble and homely rain barrel is already getting an extreme makeover. The aggressively-named Waterwall Fatboy from Waterwall Rainwater Tanks in the UK is sure to satisfy your very-particular modern design sensibilities. From waterwalltanks.com,

Despite the name, the Waterwall Fatboy tank has an excellent size-to-capacity ratio, holding 650 gallons whilst being just over two feet wide. Waterwall tanks are made to exacting standards – the UV stabilised high density polyethylene ensures light does not enter the tank, to stop algae from growing in your tank water. Solid, thick walls keep the tank strong and prevent bulging over the many years of service.

And did we mention they look good? Next up from the company: a freestanding tank that’s designed and engineered to be used as a boundary fence. How much, you ask? Well of course good design is not cheap. Raindepot.com has the 650 gallon Waterwall Fatboy for $1,189.99. (If you’re style-impaired, the site offers plenty of other plain, but reasonable options.)

Modularity is a well-loved concept in modern design; that’s why the Rainwater HOG offers so many design-y opportunities. The innovative, award-winning modular tank stores a large volume of water in a small footprint, opening possibilities for creative applications in architectural and landscape design…like this installation, where they’re being tucked under a deck, ready to bulge with rainwater bounty while staying completely out of sight.

This commercial installation at Nundah School in Queensland, Australia of features 114 HOGs storing 5,700 gallons of water. These units were custom molded in the school colors of yellow and black, and the harvested water is used primarily for toilet flushing with the excess used for garden irrigation. Extra credit for these Rainwater HOGs, as the school uses them as learning tools in math, science, and environmental  studies.

Are you gazing longingly at the Rainwater HOGs, wondering if they’re budget-friendly? This is exceptional style, people! You can’t even get these at Target yet! You can get them from aquabarrel.com, $1,960 for 6 units. Plus shipping.

You can’t buy “A Drop of Water” at any price, because it is (still?) a prototype. Designed by Bas Van Der Veer, it passes the “good design” test with flying marks while ingeniously providing an integrated watering can that automatically fills as it rains. Grab and go! The smallish size will be ideal for you city-types with small container gardens. )If you’ve ever wondered how “one of a kind” prototypes are created, browse the photos of the process at www.basvanderverr.nl)

The New DIY: Dumps Inspire You

For this D.I.Y. project, don’t trek into Home Depot for your supplies, stay outside the store and look in their dumpster! (the “new” DIY = Dumps Inspire You!)

Katie Jackson (whatkatiedid.typepad.com) took photos of this excellent greenhouse constructed from recycled plastic bottles at the Eco Centre near Newcastle on Tyne in the UK.

Do you think this looks like child’s play? It is! Here’s an example built by and for the green-minded students of Bowmore Primary School, Isle of Islay, UK. (Photo by Ewan Macintosh on Flickr)

It wouldn’t surprise us if the Bowmore gang partnered with Scotland’s Sustainable Community Initiatives. They offer an interesting educational program to help schools and community groups build shelters, walls and greenhouses from recycled plastic bottles and tyres (that’s “tires,” Americans.)

Best of all, they have documented their expertise in a book you can purchase on their website. Plastics are Fantastic features full instructions, diagrams and photos on how to construct a your very own plastic bottle greenhouse or shelter wall. Or, try this 6-page pdf freebie from REAP, a North East Scotland sustainable development charity. D.I.Y.? D.I.M.!

Awesome Trash for the Wardrobe Stash

I’d like to see Jennifer Aniston and her “Smartwater” go green on the red carpet in this. That way, she could look trashy in a positive way (and smarter, too!) In this age of new austerity, what fashionista wouldn’t kill for this fabulous trash-art necklace, crafted from PET bottles and fishing line by Turkish architect Gulnur Ozdaglar. (See more of her beautiful work here or at http://gulguvenc.blogspot.com/

From an article on columbia.edu.,

With the help of an open flame, scissors, a knife and a soldering iron, she transforms soda bottles into brooches, necklaces, vases and even plastic “petal” chandeliers, which sell for $250. Her pieces were recently featured in a well-known Turkish design store, and she is now working to win the sponsorship of environmental organizations in her country.

“Recycling is not one of the bigger issues in Turkey, as we are dealing with unemployment, human rights and more, but I think it is everyone’s responsibility to live without harming the earth,” says Ozdaglar. “I, all of my friends, and all of my neighbors, did not put one single bottle to waste last year. I make something out of all of them.”

Soak Up The View From This Fab Garden Bench

Some people can look at things cast off and thrown aside and imagine something new and wonderful. Katie’s artistic eye and creative vision gave new life to an old tub as a charming, one-of-a-kind garden bench, made of 100% recycled and reused materials.

Before, this sad old soaker appears to be awaiting it’s ride to the landfill. But Katie (from the UK near Northumberland) was already formulating her plan.

After husband John (update, oops! John is the blacksmith, and Geoff is the husband!) tackled the tub with some patient cutting and griding, the shell looked like this:

Now things really get awesome. The emerging creation needed some feet, so Katie “thought that cobbler’s lasts might do the job.” Some scrap metal and some welding  wraps up the final “step.”

Last, a good scrub, a dreamy spot under a beautiful spherical twig arbor, and this all-recycled treasure is ready for it’s second, more pastoral life.

All that’s left to do is enjoy it, right? Maybe not! Some refinements are being considered – “we’ll put some taps on maybe and Geoff thinks we should stand it on a bit of lino, with a bath mat perhaps? I will make some seat cushions for it – its a bit cold on the old bum.”

Just makes me smile every time I look at it! You can see more on this unusual garden bench at Katie’s blog, http://whatkatiedid.typepad.com along with tons of other clever and inventive creations made from reused and recycled materials.

How about Sewranee Springs? Effluessence?

Yea, marketing! With a strategic sleight of hand, we can plaster a new name over something less pleasant and magically change everyones’ perceptions! Los Angeles is on to this trick, as noted in this story from Reuters on how the water crisis is forcing the issue of reuse in Los Angeles as the situation intensifies. The article notes,

Just don’t call it “toilet-to-tap.”

County officials prefer the term “Groundwater Replenishment System,” a name chosen after similar projects in Los Angeles and San Diego fell prey to public misconceptions, also known as the “yuck” factor,” and local election-year politics.

Their experience underscores one of the great lessons facing municipal officials across the U.S. West as they seek to bring purification and recycling technologies to bear against drought cycles expected to worsen with climate change.

The ideas are flowing! SiouxArTesian? Trader Joes, here we come! ReAgua? Let’s all join in the fun! You, too, can create your own re-branded, re-positioned “groundwater replenishment” product. Just go to The Soft Drink Generator, an interactive distraction where you can build your very own bottle from the groundwater up.