No More Talking Trash About Portable Sanitation

No More Talking Trash About Portable Sanitation
Karleen Kos is executive director of the Portable Sanitation Association International. She may be reached at or 952/854-8300.

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Years ago my stepfather teased his grandchildren when they were reluctant to apply enough effort to their homework, chores or grooming. “At this rate, kiddo, you’ll never amount to anything,” he’d joke. “Do you want to end up as a garbage man?”

As time passed that line stopped being as funny. Mere “garbage men” became solid-waste professionals, their operations reflected both pride and new technologies, and a righteous cycle of improvement gained momentum. The image of that industry was transformed.

It didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t happen because those outside the solid-waste industry suddenly became enlightened. It occurred because the solid-waste industry worked hard to make it happen. Specifically:

  • The solid-waste trade associations developed strategies and messages to help improve the general perceptions of their industry.
  • Companies helped carry those messages by refusing to be a joke. They put their teams in uniforms, kept their trucks clean and in good repair, adopted new technologies, and got involved in the lives of their communities.
  • Together, the associations and their members built an improved image, engaging their customers and local governments in the process. That’s how wheeled, flip-topped, waste-truck-compatible trash bins came to replace the messy, unsightly mix of boxes, plastic sacks and metal cans that used to sit on corners.

What does all of this have to do with portable sanitation? Plenty. In many circles, portable sanitation is viewed as poorly today as solid waste was viewed 30 years ago. Luckily, we can apply the lessons learned to similarly transform the image of our industry.

This is not just talk. The PSAI has a plan and we’ve already begun the process. The adoption of our new tagline succinctly communicates why portable sanitation matters. Going forward you’ll see “Better work sites. Better weekends. Better world.” almost everywhere you see our name. This line will serve as the springboard for future messaging about the value of portable sanitation. To back that up, we’ve introduced a Code of Excellence to define best practices and hold ourselves accountable. And, of course, for two years we’ve been reaching out to the public through World Portable Sanitation Day – a signature celebration and day of awareness.

The PSAI is going to work at this “image thing” relentlessly for as long as it takes to turn the tide. Believe me, though – the tide will turn a lot faster if we take a lesson from the solid-waste industry and actively engage many people inside and outside portable sanitation in the process.

In addition to what the PSAI alone can do, the more companies get on board as members, volunteer advocates and as good examples, the faster things will change. The more the association and its member companies engage local governments and the public, the sooner we will be able to create our own “righteous cycle” of improvement and esteem.

Join the PSAI in this effort. We look forward to working with everyone in the industry to arrive at the day when “talking trash” about portable sanitation just isn’t funny anymore.


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