Recycling, including greywater recycling, is a concept that has become increasingly relevant as we struggle to conserve resources in a world threatened by climate change, pollution and non-stop population growth.
One can see signals of the growing relevance of this concept on a daily basis, from the continuing strength of the “going green” movement in American politics to the popping up of recycling bins in local communities.
Greywater Recycling Facts
The most recent statistics released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009 bear witness to the immense scope of recycling as part of our current economy; as reported by the EPA, about 9,000 community curbside recycling programs existed in the US, and 3,000 community composting programs existed. In addition, the EPA reported that out of 243 million tons of trash generated, 82 million tons were recycled, 29 million tons of municipal solid waste were combusted, 74% of office-type paper were recovered and 34.5% of metals were recycled.
Greywater Recycling vs Traditional Recycling
How exactly does greywater recycling differ from traditional recycling? Recycling is generally defined as a process to convert waste materials to reusable materials, and carries with it a number of benefits, including conservation of potentially useful materials, reduction of energy usage, reduction of air and water pollution and reduction greenhouse gases. Recyclable materials such as glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles and electronics are typically brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, and then sorted, cleaned and reprocessed – usually through burning, crushing, chemical soaking and/or refining — into new materials to be used in manufacturing or into new products.
By contrast, greywater recycling does not involve burning, crushing or the release of heat energy, but rather involves the reuse or recirculation of previously used household greywater water for such outdoor purposes as irrigation and landscaping, as well as indoors for re-use in toilets.
Greywater, itself, is best described as all wastewater generated in households or office buildings from streams without contamination (e.g. fecal), and typical greywater sources include bathroom sinks, showers, baths, and clothes washing machines.
Greywater Recycling Practices
While more basic greywater recycling practices have existed for hundreds of years, such as simply discarding household water into the backyard to water plants and shrubs, government regulations limiting or outlawing the reuse of greywater have historically limited the prevalence of this type of recycling. However, given the reality of an increasing worldwide water shortage, as well as the clear environmental and financial benefits stemming from greywater recycling, states have loosened the legal restrictions and prohibition on greywater recycling.
Indeed, in addition to making water resources more available to farmers and wildlife, greywater recycling lower consumers’ water bills, extends the life of overloaded or failing septic systems, and saves energy by diverting or replacing water that would otherwise be treated at the local sewage and water treatment plant.
Types of Greywater Recycling Systems
In this context, a number of different types of greywater recycling systems and related technology solutions have emerged, including systems for washing machines, such as a direct pumping of greywater from the machine to outdoor plants, a laundry drum system, in which water is pumped into a large barrel or temporary storage tank, or the more sophisticated “laundry-to-landscape” system, in which the washing machine drain hose is attached directly to a diverter valve, which in turn allows the user to switch the flow of water between sewer/septic and greywater irrigation system.
Other greywater recycling systems utilize the shower, with a pumped or gravity-based system depending on whether the area to be irrigated is uphill from the house.
New Technology makes Greywater Recycling Convenient
And it should be noted that new technology developments and enhancements such as the GreenSmart Greywater Diverter continue to make greywater recycling more efficient and convenient to use for the typical homeowner. This product, which is now in production and available to the public, works by diverting clean greywater to the garden and dirty water (shower water containing non-biodegradable products such as hair color) to the sewer with the simple touch of a button on the user’s remote control. It is the first Uniform Plumbing Code Certified greywater diverter, approved March 2015.
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