Restroom Innovations Are on the Horizon

PROs who embrace cleaner, more sophisticated solutions will help fill a growing user demand

Restroom Innovations Are on the Horizon

Karleen Kos is executive director of the Portable Sanitation Association International. She may be reached at or 952-854-8300.

Did you know there are at least 101 names for the thing commonly known as a toilet? One of my favorite terms is calling it “the necessary.” That pretty well sums up everything you need to know about restrooms, lavatories, loos, potties or whichever of the other 96 words you prefer to use. They are necessary, and we are in the business of bringing a necessary to places that don’t have them.

I’ve now been serving the members of the Portable Sanitation Association International for more than five years, and there are some things I’ve learned about people and portable sanitation over that time:

  • When there are no nearby sewered toilets, people are extremely grateful that portable restrooms are provided.
  • All other things being equal, people will always choose a sewered toilet over a portable restroom.
  • People avoid portable restrooms mostly because of the open tank. They don’t want to see or smell waste, they fear germs and tipping, and they worry about cleanliness in general.

What is particularly interesting is that all three of these points are true even for people who own, rent and service portable restroom units themselves.

We all know flushing portable units have been available for a while, and we know their limitations. We also know people love portable restroom trailers. That part of the business continues to grow, but it isn’t feasible to bring a trailer to many sites, even if the customer is willing to pay for it. This means there is space in the market for restroom solutions that blend:

  • Closed tanks
  • Off-grid performance
  • Truly portable structures
  • A sustainable business model.

Several units in development globally are expected to both address the open tank and support a sustainable business model. Engineers are also working on compact, affordable off-grid waste processing systems that could be a real boon to portable sanitation contractors struggling for affordable disposal options. PSAI members who attended the November 2018 Nuts and Bolts Educational Conference saw one of them at Daniel Yeh’s Environmental Engineering site at the University of South Florida.

I believe whoever invents, manufactures and ultimately rents these next-generation units — and those who do the same with waste treatment units that would affordably free portable restroom operators from their tether to a waste treatment plant — will create a wave of change in the industry. It might be ushered in by one or more of our current industry suppliers. It might be an upstart or a university that creates the concept and then partners with someone else on production.

The demand is out there, and the products are already being developed. They will impact our industry tremendously in the next decade or so. Each person currently engaged in the portable sanitation industry will need to stay abreast of these new technologies and the changes they will bring to our industry. The PSAI aims to provide that information through its weekly newsletters and its annual conferences such as the 2019 Convention and Trade Show in Mobile, Alabama, March 27-29. I hope you join us. 


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