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At nearly every event worldwide, portable sanitation plays an important behind-the-scenes role. And a visit from Pope Francis to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day is no different. As leaders geared up for millions of event attendees, PolyJohn manufactured portable restroom components and secured shipping containers. Assemblers began building 5,200 portable toilets.
Altogether, over 3.5 million people attended the event between August 1 to August 6, braving temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). But how did this whole deal come together, and what was it like preparing for the Pope’s visit? We talked to PolyJohn Latin America Sales Manager, Chris Davis, to learn more.
Securing the Deal for World Youth Day
Networking with the right people can keep you abreast of the latest trends and introduce new opportunities. Consequently, the World Youth Day deal stemmed from a decades-long friendship between Davis and Grupo Vendap, an equipment and portable restroom business with several locations in Portugal. PolyJohn also worked with Grupo Vendap for many years.
Grupo Vendap contacted Davis in November 2022 (about eight months before the Pope’s visit) to discuss the possibility of the event. However, Grupo Vendap wasn’t awarded the event contract until March 2023. That meant they had less than five full months to secure materials from PolyJohn and assemble thousands of portable restroom units and sinks.
Manufacturing Portable Toilets for the Pope’s Visit
As soon as Grupo Vendap received confirmation, PolyJohn started production. The first 40-foot high-cube containers arrived in Lisbon in early April, and the rest followed in May and June. In total, PolyJohn shipped more than 50 containers to Lisbon.
Much like a factory assembly line, Grupo Vendap stacked the various portable restroom components by category in a covered outdoor area. Workers then diligently yet quickly built all 5,200 toilets, including 20 PolyJohn Comfort XLs (handicap units). They averaged 150 units per day and also assembled 100 PolyJohn 4-station sinks.
Placing and Servicing Thousands of Portable Restrooms
Davis said, “The site of the event was 3.5 miles long and in the city of Lisbon.” Before World Youth Day began, crews loaded 5,200 newly assembled units onto trucks. They separated them by color (evergreen, blue, and aqua) to ensure each landed in its designated spot. Then, workers pulled the portable toilets from the trucks and lined them up alongside the roads individually. In one area, blue toilets lined both sides of the road as far as the eyes could see.
But, as any portable restroom owner knows, placing the toilets is only part of the job. Due to the number of units and volume of people, Grupo Vendap cleaned 24 hours per day. They kept 35 trucks on-site to pump toilets.
Portable Restrooms: Keeping the World Comfortable
PolyJohn and Grupo Vendap arranged a deal for the units beforehand, with Vendap purchasing over 2,000 units outright and leasing about 3,200 from PolyJohn for the event. After being used for one week, PolyJohn launched a giant promotion to sell the remaining units to companies in Europe. Although you won’t find many close-ups of the portable restroom units when looking at photos from the Pope’s visit, as a PRO, you understand the hard work that made this event sanitary and comfortable for everyone.
See below for photos and videos of event preparations.
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