People carrying oyster ball to reef
Agency Partners with Tampa Bay Watch on Toilet Recycling Pilot Project

Tampa Bay Water Wise is Tampa Bay Water’s conservation program that provides rebates to residents and business owners for installing water-efficient fixtures and devices. Since the program launched in 2020, the program has issued more than 2,400 rebates for high-efficiency toilets, saving thousands of gallons of water per day. But what happens to those old toilets after new water-efficient ones are installed? They often accumulate in landfills. But a new pilot program in a partnership between Tampa Bay Water and Tampa Bay Watch may have found a new life for old toilets.

Amelia Brown, Tampa Bay Water’s demand management program manager, worked with Tampa Bay Watch to partner on a pilot program to use crushed toilets to create oyster reef balls. Tampa Bay Watch’s Community Oyster Reef Enhancement (CORE) program creates and installs reef balls along the shores of Tampa Bay to stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion. The reef balls are typically made from marine-friendly concrete mixed with small rocks. The pilot project involved crushing two toilets, which were then used to create four 150-200-pound oyster reef balls that were deployed into the water in Tierra Verde in June.

The project could be a win-win for both organizations and the environment. Oysters filter and remove pollutants from the ocean, acting as a natural water purifier.

“It takes about six to 12 months to see if the oysters will reliably use the oyster balls, so we’ll know more in mid-2023,” Brown said. “We hope the pilot project will provide an environmentally sustainable solution for reducing porcelain waste in landfills and create a large-scale toilet recycling program.”