Toilet manufacturer bridges political divide with green products, processes

By David Pendered

As presidential candidates spar over the value of the green economy, a toilet manufacturer in metro Atlanta is garnering acclaim for its green business practices from across the political spectrum.

Smoothing porcelain

Toto workers smooth the cast toilets by hand to ensure a quality finish Credit: Donita Pendered

Toto USA has received commendations from the EPA during the most recent Bush administration; then-Gov. Sonny Perdue; the Brookings Institute; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and – this month – the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. The awards recognize Toto’s environmentally friendly bathroom fixtures and sustainable manufacturing practices.

Bill Strang, senior vice president of Toto’s operations in the Americas, is fond of a catchphrase he employs to sum up Toto’s comprehensive approach to waste management: “There is no silver bullet, but there is silver buckshot.”

Toto opened its pressure casting plant in Morrow in 1996 and, in 2007, expanded the plant’s sustainability programs. The facility serves a market throughout the Americas and is part of Toto’s global strategy to pioneer, and profit from, efficiency in personal sanitary systems.

Bill Strang

Bill Strang says Toto toilets conserve water and are manufacturer in an environmentally sustainable method. Credit: Donita Pendered

The company was incorporated in 1917 and trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Share prices dropped during the recession, falling from 943 yen starting in March 2008, to a low of 425 yen in February 2009, according to WSJ/Dow Jones. Share prices today are close to 600 yen and analysts have rated the stocks from buy to hold, with no recommendations to underweight or sell shares.

Strang brings enough energy to his work to make even the fabrication of porcelain toilets sound fascinating. Giving a tour of the Toto plant during the ceremony for the Riverkeeper award, Strang explains many of the efforts Toto puts into reducing, reusing and recycling materials along the production line:

  • Glazing for toilets that’s a nano-technology solution designed to prevent mildew, bacteria, waste and stains from adhering to the fixture.
  • Ready for shipping

    Toilets ready for shipping will be packed two to a carton in order to conserve cardboard. Credit: Donita Pendered

    Toilets are shipped two to a box, with one resting upside down on its twin, in a design that reduces the amount of cardboard needed for packaging by more than 3 acres a month.

  • Cracked or marred toilets are shipped to another company that pulverizes them and uses the dust to make tile.
  • Employeers are urged to bring their recyclables to work and drop them in a big box by the front door, in an effort to help those who otherwise have no easy way to recycle paper and plastic products.

Strang is equally energetic in describing the finished bathroom fixtures – toilets that are engineered to carry more waste with less water, and faucets that use less water to cleanse.

Toto’s niche in this high-tech hygiene arena has positioned the company to benefit from eco-conscious consumers.

miso paste

Bill Strang explains that engineers use formed miso to test the flushing capabilities of toilets. Miso, a product typically made of fermented soybean, is used because its specific gravity is the same as human waste. Credit: Donita Pendered

“Consumers today want to be seen as conspicuous conservationists,” Strang said. “We want to give them opportunities to be engaged in water conservation in ways that don’t require changes in behavior, to help them see that they can achieve reduction in energy by simply changing out their toilet, faucet, shower.”

Strang says Toto is working hard to create a future where toilets in common use consume just a gallon of unpressurized water to remove waste. That represents a huge water savings from older toilets that can use upwards of seven gallons a flush.

“We are a toilet manufacturer, but we are a purpose-driven business that goes beyond toilet manufacturing,” Strang said. “The future of our world is going to be based on how effectively we use water. … Less water flushed away equals more water to irrigate our crops.

“Conservation is not the only solution, but conservation must be part of the solution,” he said. “There is no silver bullet, but there is silver buckshot.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

2 replies
  1. Steve Rieck says:

    I was proud to be a part of the team that welcomed Toto to Morrow so many years ago.  I see their products everywhere and congratulate them on a job well done!Report

    Reply

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