Proper waste disposal has never been more important to protect the environment around you, water, wildlife, and other people. Follow these tips from Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics on proper waste disposal.
Disposing of human waste properly is vital to avoid negative impacts on the environment. Such as pollution of water sources or spreading disease. There are easy to use, EPA-approved pack-out systems available that are sanitary for hikers and backpackers.
Typically, burying human feces is the best method to meet proper disposal guidelines. However, some places such as narrow river canyons require you to pack out human waste.
We want to ensure long-term sustainability in our shared lands and you can do your part. Check with land management agencies for specific rules in the area.
There are times when a latrine is more applicable than a cat hole. If you’re staying longer than a few nights or you have children with you, this is often the preferred method. Use similar criteria when selecting a location as you would with a cat hole (200 feet from water, trails, and campsites, elevated, in sunlight, cover with native materials).
Location is very important here because there will be a higher concentration of feces to decompose. To speed up decomposition and lessen odor, throw in some soil after each use. For latrine-building techniques, you’ll want to work with your land manager.
Pack it out in plastic bags. Do not bury them or burn them as they don’t decompose easily and animals can dig them up.
Urine can sometimes draw out wildlife attracted to the salts. While the urine doesn’t have a big direct effect on the soil or vegetation, wildlife can dig up soil or defoliate plants if attracted to it. Your best bet is to urinate on pine needles, rocks, and gravel to avoid attracting animals.
You can dilute it with water to help minimize negative effects.
Other Forms of Waste
Every person on recreation lands has a responsibility to “Pack it in, Pack it out” before they leave.
When you wash yourself or dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes. Strain your dishwater with a fine mesh strainer before scattering it broadly and do so away from camp (especially in bear country). Use a clean container to collect the water and take it to a wash site. This will help keep pollutants out of the water.
Soaps and Lotions
It’s best to minimize the use of soap because it can affect the quality of nearby lakes and streams, even if it’s biodegradable. Always wash yourself away from the shoreline and rinse from carried water (typically in a jug or pot).
Think twice before you swim in creeks and potholes if you’ve used lotion, sunscreen, insect repellent, or body oils as these can contaminate the water source.
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