How Portable Toilets Are Helping the Planet and People Who Have to Go When They’re on the Move

Laxmi pointing up toward a portable toilet

“Oh, I love using a porta potty!” said no one ever. Portable toilets don’t have the best reputation when it comes to public restrooms, but we think they just need some rebranding. Not only are they helping people who don’t have easy access to a bathroom, but they’re also doing our environment a few favors. So let’s dive in (to the blog, not a portable toilet) and learn about how portable toilets affect your planet.

How Do Portable Toilets Work?

Portable toilets are designed to be convenient and affordable for those who need a bathroom when they’re on the go. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from large trailers with multiple stalls to small plastic units that can fit inside a van or trailer.

When it comes to portable toilets, sanitation is a priority. Generally, they’re are equipped with large tanks to store waste and chemicals that break down the matter. The tanks need to be emptied regularly and refilled with clean water and deodorizers.

We know that porta-potties aren’t glamorous; they were designed for function. A regular toilet or bathroom requires a lot of infrastructure: dedicated plumbing, wastewater treatment facilities, and the list goes on. Porta-potties don’t require any of these things. That’s why they’re perfect for festivals, construction sites, and other events where there is no access to a permanent bathroom.

They also make for a great “green” washing solution. Mobile toilets can be used in remote areas, where there is no access to plumbing or wastewater treatment plants. This is a good way to conserve water and protect the environment from contaminants that could potentially get released into nearby rivers or streams.

row of portable toilets outdoors

But are Portable Toilets Safe?

Some people refuse to even consider going in a portable toilet and we understand their reluctance. They don’t always smell great, and the idea that another person’s waste is below you isn’t exactly pleasant. But, when they’re properly taken care of, portable toilets are much safer than you think.

Mobile toilets are regularly cleaned out and serviced to ensure that they stay sanitary. The waste is processed through a chemical treatment system to break it down and prevent any contamination. In addition, most portable toilet companies use biodegradable and non-toxic chemicals to ensure that the environment is not harmed by their use.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s extremely rare for diseases to be transferred through sitting on a toilet seat—unless something enters through a cut or directly into the genital or urinary tract. You’re more likely to be exposed to germs through the flushing of a toilet, and most porta-potties don’t have flushing mechanisms!

So while the experience of using a portable toilet may not be the same as using a regular bathroom, it’s still a safe option for people who don’t have easy access to a toilet.

What Do Mobile Toilets Do for the Environment?

When you look beyond the surface, there are a few aspects of mobile toilets that make them a sustainability powerhouse.

First, they are designed to reduce the amount of water needed for flushing—portable toilets save 45 billion gallons of water every year. Think about it: each time you flush a traditional toilet, you’re using several gallons of water. Portable toilets don’t rely on this kind of infrastructure and instead rely on chemicals that break down waste matter.

They also create a safe place for people who usually practice open defecation: going to the bathroom out in a public place because there’s nowhere else to go. 673 million still practice open defecation, mostly because they don’t have any other choice.

When you use the toilet, your waste is whisked away—out of sight, out of mind. But when someone doesn’t have bathroom infrastructure, they’re forced to go in fields, near rivers, or behind bushes. There’s no way to avoid bugs, snakes, dangerous animals or people, or another person’s waste.

If there’s nowhere for this waste to go, it accumulates and damages water sources, crops, and neighborhoods. Bad sanitation causes about 432,000 diarrhoeal deaths every year, many of them children. And that doesn’t include the health and economic damage from sickness, missed work, and lost productivity.

Your New Favorite Place to Go: The Portable Toilet

The next time you need to go, remember that portable toilets can be a safe, sustainable solution. With proper care and maintenance, they offer an eco-friendly way to stay clean and healthy. And who knows—now that we’ve busted some myths, you might even enjoy your experience a little more than you expected.

Having a potty mouth isn’t a bad thing when you’re talking about how to provide people with safely managed sanitation. Learn more about ZuLoo and our mission to bring toilets to the 2.3 billion people who don’t have access to them through our Pōōdcast or 242 program.