It’s always interesting to know the evolution of different technologies. The evolution of simple and complex technologies alike is always revealing – it gives us an insight into what life was like for earlier generations. And when it comes to insights, few are quite so candid as those offered by the evolution of the portable toilet. The humble portable toilet has come a long way since its conception. And, although we appreciate them to no end, reading about their evolution might make us appreciate them that little bit more!
The evolution of the portable toilet begins in the middle of last century, on the shipyards of WWII
Portable toilets began in the shipyards of World War Two. Here, sailors and dockers would spend long, hard hours on the move. And workplace amenities weren’t quite what they are now. So the maritime industry had to adapt. It was there, in the early twentieth century, that the portable toilet was born. It was a humble unit back then, made from timber and iron. It also had no effective method of waste storage or disposal. So, needless to say, experiences of the early portable toilet probably weren’t quite what they are now.
The next step in the evolution of the portable toilet was all about the chemicals!
With no way to control the smell or treat the waste, the evolution of the portable toilet had to move fast. Before long, someone had devised a way of treating the strong smell and bacteria of early portable toilets: chemicals. But these weren’t the sort of chemicals we use today. The first chemicals used to treat waste in portable toilets included some pretty harsh additions. Substances like formaldehyde were common in most chemical treatments, and the solution used became known for its distinctive blue colour.
By this point, portable toilets were still heavy – to continue their evolution, they had to get lighter
With a solid timber construction, calling these early toilets portable is a bit of a stretch. But then again, portability is relative, and they were at least more portable than the other toilets of the time. Still, though, early portable toilets had to get lighter if they were to live up to their name. And that is where the next step in the evolution of the portable toilet began. After considerable experimentation, the portable toilet engineers of their time decided that fibreglass would make a better compound for portable toilet units. And they were right, it was much lighter than the timber models, and therefore far more portable.
Safety became a concern in the evolution of the portable toilet: their chemical compound had to change
The thing about the evolution of the portable toilet is that it never ceased. And after a solid run, the chemical waste treatment was in the firing line once again. This time, the concern was safety. For those of you who aren’t familiar with formaldehyde, it is a very harsh chemical used to prevent decomposition. It was a favourite for early twentieth century morticians. Unsurprisingly, it was not a very safe chemical to handle. So after some careful thought, it was replaced with a safer and more effective chemical compound. That has been tweaked since then, and is still being tweaked to this day so that we can enjoy safe and hygienic portable toilet experiences.
As the evolution of the portable toilet continued, fibreglass became plastic and toilets mobilised!
Fibreglass was great inasmuch as it allowed portable toilets to be moved with ease. But there was one problem: it absorbed smell! So to make portable toilet experiences a little more luxurious, fibreglass gave way to plastic materials that were stronger, lighter, and thoroughly none-absorbent. Then came the kicker: portable toilet mobilised! With the addition of wheels and trailers, portable toilets become to dependable little fellas we see at job sites and events today.
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