What Do You Do With Restrooms That Reach the Scrap Heap?

PROs have found creative ways to repurpose plastic from aging inventory, but a comprehensive recycling solution remains elusive

What Do You Do With Restrooms That Reach the Scrap Heap?

Jeff and Terri Wigley are portable sanitation industry veterans, having owned and operated Atlanta-based Pit Stop Sanitation Services for 22 years. Send your questions for them or comments to editor@promonthly.com.  

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It’s fall, and during the past few months you’ve seen most of your restrooms go out in the field, leaving the oldest, most faded and damaged units in the inventory standing lonely in the yard. This is the time PROs can evaluate each and every restroom in their inventory to determine if an order for additional new units will be warranted soon. Recently we had two similar questions that dealt with the topic of restrooms that are no longer functional.

Question: What can we do with units that are no longer in a condition to be rented to customers? Is there some way to recycle these units?

Answer: With the average restroom today lasting a minimum of 10 years, several creative options are available once units are deemed unfit for service.

• Sell as an “outhouse.” Advertise the units for sale to hunters and fishermen. Outdoorsmen are always in need of sanitation options, and the end of summer is an ideal time to advertise to these groups before the fall hunting season begins. Consider running an ad in state and local outdoors magazines, newsletters or other publications. A flyer in a local hunting and fishing store can work well to advertise your product for rental and purchase. Typically these customers will cut a hole in the tank and position the unit above a hole they have dug in the ground. This old-fashioned privy concept works well in the woods, and the extremely faded color of the unit or a small hole in the side is inconsequential to this type of customer.

• Sell as hunting blinds. Some hunters will even request that the PRO keep the tank as they are looking for a hunting blind. These outdoor enthusiasts put a piece of plywood inside the unit in order to make a sturdy floor, cut small holes in the sides of the unit, cover the vent stack hole in the roof, and they have made a waterproof and windproof blind that will be the envy of other hunters in the woods.

• Parts recovery. Use the old units for parts inventory. Tanks, toilet seats, urinals, toilet paper holders, vent stacks and plastic skids are the most common components to be recycled. Do not forget the hardware, such as screws, nuts and bolts. Only the rivets cannot be reused.

• Cannibalize units. PROs will often take two or three restrooms and use the best parts of each to construct one good unit to go back into the construction inventory. The remaining parts can then go into the company parts inventory as previously described.

FINDING RECYCLING SOLUTIONS

Repurposing restrooms to the outdoors community or assembling good parts into working units might be the best use of unusable stock. On the other hand, recycling an entire unit at a local recycling facility presents several interesting challenges.

In order for parts of a restroom to be recycled, they must be 100% plastic. The walls, door and roof are the most desirable items for recycling, and all metal hardware must be removed. Like colors need to be separated with the white roofs being a separate category. The plastic then must be ground in a grinder to produce dense plastic pellets. Plastic skids are harder to grind and more complex to recycle. The plastic tanks and urinals are often rejected due to their use and contact with human waste. To date, any known recycling efforts are done at a local level.

We spoke to two portable restroom manufacturers concerning this topic. One manufacturer attempted a recycling program in the early 2000s, but transportation of the units, the labor to remove all nonplastic parts and the ultimate low return on the investment made this process unfeasible or impractical. The second restroom manufacturer completed their logistical and economic study of this process in the first quarter of this year and reached a similar conclusion.

One further suggestion is to seek recycling companies that would buy your old units in bulk and then would prepare them for recycling. They typically offer very low prices for large numbers of old units, but this is a method to remove unusable units from your yard.


WE’RE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY

Be creative and use every possible means to recycle as many parts and pieces of units as possible. Minimize your contributions to your local landfill.

Portable sanitation is an environmentally friendly industry in that waste is collected and treated and the effluent eventually makes its way back into our water system. We are familiar with a study that shows worldwide that portable restrooms save 125 million gallons of freshwater per day. We should be proud of these facts and advertise them to the public whenever the opportunity arises. We should all also attempt to recycle our units and keep them out of landfills.

If you have restroom recycling suggestions to share, please let us know. We are eager to pass them along to readers in a future column.



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