A Sunny Industry Outlook, Festival Glamping and More Help for the Homeless

The state of portable sanitation is looking good, and our industry is providing vital services to festivalgoers and those in need

A Sunny Industry Outlook, Festival Glamping and More Help for the Homeless

Jim Kneiszel

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The portable sanitation industry keeps hitting the news with stories that show your service is and will remain in heavy demand in the coming years. And more opportunities will arise to provide enhanced service and help your fellow man. Here are a few updates:



If long-range forecasts from the American Rental Association are accurate, you can probably safely add to restroom inventories in the coming years. The ARA recently projected that the equipment rental industry — which includes the portable sanitation sector — should enjoy growth outpacing the U.S. and Canadian economies through 2022.

In its recently modified outlook, the ARA reports slightly more subdued growth than it anticipated earlier in the year. However, the numbers still show substantial, steady growth. Revenues in North America were expected to register $61.3 billion in 2019 — $55.8 billion in the U.S. and $5.3 billion in Canada — a 5% increase over 2018.

Your mileage may vary, but the ARA is bullish overall. Expanding on the numbers, revenue in the U.S. is expected to grow by 4.2% in 2020, 4.3% in 2021 and 4.7% in 2022. The market will top out at $63.5 billion for 2022. In Canada, revenue is expected to be up 4.4% in 2020, 5.6% in 2021 and a more modest 3.7% in 2022, to reach $6.3 billion in the final year of the study.

“The equipment and event rental industry is growing and continues to expand faster than the overall economy. The outlook continues to be positive,” says John McClelland, ARA vice president for government affairs and chief economist.  

Scott Hazelton, managing director of IHS Markit, which created the analysis for the ARA, reports that a maturing economy, trade issues that need to be sorted out and questions about lasting impacts of stimulus tax cuts may have an impact. There are concerns for a downside but reasons to be optimistic as well.

“In the United States, not one state has a decline in construction, general tool, or party and event rental revenues, and there are no signs of a recession,” he says. “There is also potential upside from an infrastructure bill. The exact gain to rental would depend upon the size, time span and composition … of the bill.”



If you handle major outdoor music festivals, you know these camping/concert events can provide a lucrative contract. And sometimes it seems like there are as many restrooms spread throughout the campgrounds as there are near the music venues. Typically the events rent hundreds of units for placement on the grounds.

In the past I’ve heard occasional reports of campers requesting a personal portable restroom at their sites, but Country Thunder Arizona this year marketed the option as a VIP treatment for attendees. According to a story at media site www.azcentral.com, campers were being offered units for $140 for the three-day event, $178 with taxes and fees.

The story referred to the units as “your personal Thunder throne” and asked users to “imagine answering the call in the privacy of your own campsite toilet instead of marching to the general admission area to wait for the same toilets being used by the (shudder) single-day pass holders.”

It’s also interesting to note the offer of a “glamping” option — you know, the shortened term for glamorous camping — at the festival. That’s where you can rent a safari-style tent with a queen bed and air conditioning. For standard camping, they also would rent you a tent, sleeping bags, pads and chairs so you wouldn’t have to bother with carrying in your own equipment.

If people are now willing to pay for a glamping package, I could envision the private campsite restroom really taking off and becoming a staple offering for music festivals, military reenactments, fairs and flea markets across the country. If you haven’t already, consider offering this option through your event planners. Except for the challenge of maneuvering through those tight campground roads, this could provide a helpful new profit center for special event work.


In last month’s cover story about Texas-based Streetside Showers, organizer Lance Olinski credited another nonprofit group, Lava Mae, with inspiring and training him to provide hygiene opportunities to the homeless. Recently, Lava Mae received publicity for its efforts to serve the homeless in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.

KABC-TV in Los Angeles interviewed Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval and users about the need for portable sanitation in the city. The nonprofit group doesn’t receive any government backing for its efforts, but Los Angeles officials recently approved spending $3 million for portable restrooms and other facilities to serve a large homeless population.

Like our featured group Streetside Showers, Lava Mae organizes pop-up free sanitation in a variety of locations in the three cities. It calls them “care villages,” where users get showers, can use bathrooms and receive other services such as medical care and haircuts. The group started by using old city buses converted for use as showers but now uses commercially produced shower and restroom trailers.

“You watch one person go in to get a shower and a totally different person come out. Lava Mae is really about what we call radical hospitality,” Sandoval says on the nonprofit’s website, www.lavamae.org. “The way you serve people is as important as the service itself. The heart of this is restoring or rekindling a sense of dignity in people. These acts of kindness and compassion can transform almost anything. You have no idea what the impact can be for them.”

Sandoval says the shower and restroom service is playing a role in homeless people finding housing and employment, and overcoming addictions. It’s great to see more nonprofit groups play a role in fighting the serious problem of homelessness that is stretching from urban centers and into smaller cities.

PROs anywhere probably see this issue cropping up in their hometowns. We’ve often suggested restroom contractors look for ways to partner with charity organizations and cities to join in this fight. Let me know if you have implemented a program to help out in your community. 


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