It’s Not Easy Being Green

Meeting customer needs creates challenges for environmentally friendly portable restroom operators
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Tanks Alot driver Clifford Taylor preps fragrance at the Tanks Alot headquarters in Tomball, Texas. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith)

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Environmentally friendly enzymes and biodegradable additives have become an increasingly popular way for portable restroom operators to break down waste and control odor.

Single-day, event-sized tablets as well as weekly use portions take the mess and guesswork out of restroom service. Yet, as a certain frog might say, it’s not easy being green. When cost-conscious customers demand more for less or when high heat calls for ultimate odor control, restroom operators find being environmentally friendly has its challenges.

Russ Holm, sales manager for On Site Sanitation in St. Paul, Minnesota, says he tries to use environmentally friendly products as much as possible.

“Obviously there are circumstances where you can’t,” he says of graffiti removers in aerosol cans. “If we have an option, a good viable option, we would definitely use that. The more green the better.”

Formaldehyde-free for over 20 years, On Site Sanitation uses environmentally friendly deodorizing products from Satellite Industries and CPACEX.

Pamela Weierke, owner of Weierke’s Septic Services in Sturgis, South Dakota, doesn’t have a large demand for restroom deodorant. With no units of her own, Weierke supplies campgrounds with boxes of environmentally friendly Walex products during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally each August.

“This is going to be the big year, the 75th year of the rally, so I might have to buy a couple more boxes,” she says. “They’re expecting over 1.5 million people.”

Weierke hauls waste to a local treatment plant, working from dawn to well past dark when the bikers roar into town.

“There are several campgrounds with holding tanks that have to be emptied, sometimes on a daily basis,” she says.

Triple-digit heat

Tammy Kennedy, owner of Tanks Alot/Conroe Chem Can in Tomball, Texas, says triple-digit heat dictates the use of formaldehyde-based deodorant from J & J Chemicals.

“I’ve gotten samples of environmentally friendly chemicals but it just gets so hot here. We’d love to switch over, but with the heat here the customers are complaining,” she says. “Now with toilet paper, the cost is a little higher but we are going toward that type of paper. I’m in the process of getting prices from three different companies.”

Despite the environmental challenges, Kennedy believes there are advantages to being green.

“I think everybody is going toward that,” she says. “I’d love to switch to the chemical. We even tried it in the winter months, but once that bluish-green color changes our customers are calling. And I know it’s not going to work in this summer heat. It gets to be over 100 degrees. We need that formaldehyde base.”

Price is a driving force for Lynn Boyett, owner of Boyett’s Effortless Sanitation, and the construction sites he serves in Pensacola, Florida.

“All they care about is how cheap you’re going to let them have it,” he says. 

Boyett uses pre-measured Walex products exclusively in his restrooms.

Environmentally safe alternatives

Corey Morton, sales manager at Walex Products, says being environmentally friendly means more than formaldehyde-free.

“For a true environmentally friendly product you need to go to an all-natural, green deodorizer – a natural-enzyme-based product,” he says. “It’s like good, better, best where formaldehyde is good, non-formaldehyde is better and green is best when you’re talking about being environmentally friendly.”

Two all-natural products from Walex are Bio-Pak, a prepackaged portion-control enzyme, and super concentrate Bio-Active. Both holding tank deodorizers, a top choice for campsites and RV parks, control odor and liquefy waste.

“They are very safe to handle and accepted at every waste treatment facility,” Morton says.

Recycled products, such as the restroom base from Satellite Industries, offer PROs another way to go green.

“The base fits on our Tufway Maxim 200, Global, Taurus and Mondo, which is only sold in Europe,” says Mitch Mooers, marketing manager. “It weighs 77 pounds as compared to a standard roto-base that weighs 43 pounds. People like it because it adds weight to the base for added restroom stability.”

Going green

Safe-T-Fresh, developed by Satellite Industries in 1975, was the industry’s first non-formaldehyde portable restroom deodorizer.

“It was green before green was green,” Mooers says. “Any of our Safe-T-Products are environmentally safe.”

Graffix graffiti remover is an environmentally safe gel that contains no MEK or other harsh, flammable chemicals. Formulated to adhere to vertical surfaces, it removes multiple layers of oil- and latex-based paint from HDPE, wood, brick, stone or metal.

“In the past, graffiti removers were formulated using harsh, raw materials such as potassium hydroxide or xylene,” says Lindy Boehme, division manager for CPACEX. “CPACEX has developed Graffiti Solutions, a safe, soy-based product that provides sanitation operators with a biodegradable and non-offensive alternative to removing graffiti from the portable units.”

Justin Kwiatkowski, product manager for Surco Products, says while formaldehyde is very effective in controlling odor and preserving bodies, it is also extremely toxic. Banned in Europe, the U.S. National Toxicology Program classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen that can cause death in humans if ingested.

“It’s a super, super caustic chemical that we encourage people to stay away from,” he says. “We have alternative biocides that are just as strong. They might cost a little more than formaldehyde but they are definitely worth the extra money.”

Surco’s new Xtreme Summer Plus formula is designed to tackle triple-digit temperatures, providing seven to 10 days of odor control.

“Everyone says nothing holds up like formaldehyde, so what we did is we took two different biocides and had them tested in Mexico,” Kwiatkowski says. “We came out with a new liquid and dry packet in a lavender/fabuloso fragrance that can combat odor at any level.”

Surco’s Potty Fresh Plus dry formula is packaged in a water-soluble, nonstick, toss-in paper packet.

Another restroom option is the Evergreen line of deodorizers from J & J Chemical Co. Available in premeasured tablets, water-soluble packets and ultra-concentrate liquid, the deodorizer uses natural enzymes to control odor and break down waste.

“Evergreen is the branding of all the environmentally friendly products we carry,” says David Roncadori, sales manager for J & J Chemical, of the non-biocide-based deodorizer that’s safe for treatment plants.


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