Southern Ontario entrepreneur Rob Weir hopes he can tip the porta-potty industry on its head with a patented invention that could reshape those portable outhouses that line the back fences of outdoor festivals around the world.
The concept is simple: Take a run-of-the-mill porta-potty that typically stands just under three metres high and make it compact and easier to transport and store.
Weir's wife is his inspiration. She often refused to use porta-potties at public events and wished there was a way to make a personal portable toilet.
Weir, who is from Belle River, just east of Windsor, said the bottom third is the "business half" of a porta-potty.
"So, if I could figure out a way to make it collapse down to a small, manageable size, it might not be a bad idea," Weir said.
Weir came up with the P-Pod, a version of the traditional porta-potty that collapses down to about a metre high and can be tossed easily into the back of a small pickup truck or a regular old minivan.
"I can see a point in the future where it would be pointless to have the full-size one because it would be so much easier in terms of logistics to have the one that collapses," Weir said.
In operable mode, the P-Pod stands about as high as an everyday porta-potty. But it has a fabric back and a single bar that keeps it upright. Remove that bar and the portable toilet folds into its compact position.
There are no pins and no bolts involved in setting it up or taking it down.
"I wanted to make sure there weren't any parts you could lose, or pins or bolts or anything that you could lose, and get 50 miles [about 80 km] from home and realize you forgot a $5 pin and couldn't use your restroom," Weir said. "I wanted to keep the design simple."
The P-Pod comes with a sealable tank so it can be transported while full.
And he's attracting plenty of attention after getting Canadian and U.S. patents on his design and building an aluminum prototype.
Weir is already part-owner of Festival Tents and Party Rentals, which owns and rents out an estimated 500 porta-potties. His customers are already interested in the new product.
But to test the broader market, Weir will lug his prototype to Indianapolis in February for the 2016 Water and Wastewater Equipment Treatment and Transport Show, an industry trade show that is expected to attract about 14,000 wastewater professionals from around the globe.
"At that show, we're just going to try to gauge the feedback of the 1,600 or 1,700 operators in North America," he said.
Retailers want to market to hunters, campers
Weir hasn't set a price yet for the P-Pod but says there appears to be a market among retailers who sell to hunters, campers or festival-goers.
Through his porta-potty rental business, he also knows people get annoyed with waiting in line or despise using communal outdoor toilets.
"I've been to a lot of events where people would actually bring their entire RV just to use the bathroom," he said. 'Why can't we just bring the bathroom and leave the RV at home?"