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How to Green Portable Toilets for a Major Event?

Rapid Response Question: What attributes should or can be specified to reduce the environmental impact of providing portable toilets for a multi-day sports event?

Original Request by: City of Richmond, Virginia

* DISCLAIMER: PPRC does not endorse any specific products or manufacturers mentioned herein.



portable toilet_generic_rapidThe City of Richmond, VA is hosting the Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI) 2015 Road World Cycling Championships. The 9-day event will be held in September, 2015, and is expected to attract 450,000 onsite spectators. Mayor Dwight C. Jones and Richmond officials announced on April 22, 2015, that the 2015 UCI Road World Cycling Championships has become the first Road World Cycling Championships to receive the official UCI reCycling eco-label.

The City of Richmond and its partners are building capacity in the community to make future events in the city more sustainable. They will publish a green event toolkit to provide free information and resources to help other event organizers. The team is working on numerous best practices and provisions for the event, one of them being “greener portable toilets”.


Findings & Recommendations

Providing portable toilets for large outdoor events is a necessary service. Here are attributes that can be specified by municipalities or other customers, and/or included in a procurement contract, to reduce the environmental impact of portable toilets. They are categorized under transport, supplies, lighting, stormwater, and safety.

Note that some of the suggestions or specifications may add cost to the cost of the normal contracted service.

Transportation/Service Trucks:

  • Minimum fuel efficiency standards
  • Scheduled vehicle maintenance
  • Diesel retrofit or state-of-the-art diesel emissions control
  • Tire pressure management for optimal fuel efficiency
  • Idling reduction policies
  • Low sulfur fuel or a minimum percentage of biofuel content
  • Computer-based routing systems for delivery and servicing


  • Safety Data Sheets (or Material Safety Data Sheet) should be provided by the contractor for all holding tank and cleaning chemicals used.
  • The Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) recommends disinfectants be devoid of asthmagens (such as chlorine bleach, chlorinated quaternary ammonium chloride compounds or Peroxyacetic Acid), and devoid of carcinogens (such as ortho-phenyl phenol). For more information, see San Francisco’s report on Safer Products and Practices for Disinfecting Surfaces, which RPN helped to develop. It is possible that some of the concentrated peroxide-based sanitizers would work for this application.
  • Green-certified or safer cleaning products for routine cleaning and graffiti removal. Three third-party certified product certifications to help identify actual products are: Green SealUL EcoLogo, or EPA’s Safer Choice products.
  • Note that if these products are found to be cost-prohibitive, here are several other toxic reduction strategies:
    • Avoid aerosols, flammable products, fragrances, and toxic constituents, for instance: triclosan, butyl cellulsolve, nonylphenol ethoxylates or nonylphenols, or bleach (containing sodium hypochlorite).
    • Deodorizers should be free of alcohol, formaldehyde, alkyl phenol ethoxylates, and para-dichlorobenzene. According to the Responsible Purchasing Network, one significant problem is that urinal blocks, which sometimes contain para-dichlorobenzene (a carcinogen according to the State of California), can be dumped into the water supply when the porta-potties are cleaned out. UL EcoLogo has a specification (for purchase) for attributes of safer urinal blocks. See Ecologo Urinal Block). (A truly eco-minded event could consider not using deodorizers in urinals to reduce the overall amount of chemical use).
    • See a list of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EPA’s listed Safer Chemical Ingredients under their Safer Choice Labelling Program.
  • Bio-based hand sanitizers with no synthetic fragrance and no antibacterials.
  • Recycled-content and chlorine-free toilet paper and seat covers. GreenSeal has certified at least one provider of toilet paper for portable restrooms. Note that seat covers contribute significantly to the overall amount of waste and may be eliminated. However, some entities will want to provide these for sanitation purposes.
  • Refillable hand-pump dispensers.
  • Bulk purchasing of supplies.


  • Interior natural lighting provided by translucent roofs.


Require that vendors:

  • Properly dispose of all liquids, including but not limited to, rinse water and cleaning agents, in compliance with all laws and regulations. No liquid or product of any kind may be discharged to the ground, gutter, storm drain, or paved surface where it could be carried to the storm drain system or to groundwater.
  • Conduct contractor services in accordance with the property’s Storm Water Management Plan or permit (i.e. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination program).
  • Use secondary containment pans to capture spillage during cleaning.
  • Maintain equipment and connection/transfer points maintenance.
  • Manage vehicle wash and rinse water; no disposal or release to ground or storm drains.
  • Manage toilet and tank rinse water. Gwinnet County’s BMP Guidance for Portable Toilet Management stipulations are as follows:
    • Rinse water is controlled to prevent it from entering into a storm drain;
    • No more than one (1) gallon of rinse water is used per portable toilet (i.e. low volume high-pressure cleaners, or bucket and rag. No common household hoses).
    • Rinsing must be completed at least 20 feet away from a street or storm drain.
    • Where the portable toilet must be located on a paved surface: any rinse water that comes in contact with paved surface must be adequately collected.
    • Where the portable toilet is located on a non-paved surface: rinsing should be completed at least 5 feet away from a paved surface; rinsing wastewater is drained to the ground at a rate that allows it to immediately soak into the ground.
  • Properly store chemicals and supply under cover and with secondary containment.
  • Always have spill equipment and materials at the site, and during service visits.


  • Sanitary seat deck and flow design (nonporous surfaces).
  • Anti-slip floor surface.
  • Outside emergency access.
  • Interior latch and in-use indicator.
  • Heavy duty spring loaded doors.
  • Maximum venting from floor, window, and vent pipe.
  • 70 gallon holding tank in standard units, 65 in handicap.
  • Handicap units must comply with American with disabilities Act.


  1. City of Berkeley. 2014. Contract: United Site Services of California, Inc. for Portable Toilet Rental and Service. (Search on “portable toilet” at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Home.aspx)
  2. Oregon Metro. 2013. Portable Toilet Rental and Sewage Disposal Services – Request for Proposal
  3. Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN). February 2015. Communication.
  4. SF Environment. 2014. Safer Products and Practices for Disinfecting Surfaces.
  5. Gwinnet County. 2006. BMP Water Quality Protection Guideline for Portable Toilet Management.

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