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Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out!
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Julie Romig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 15:51:38 MDT Print View

Went hiking up Eagle Creek trail on the Columbia Gorge - it was beautiful. Kept passing amazing campsites and break spots, but there was used toilet paper everywhere! I was amazed at just how much TP there was, along with other garbage and unburyed human waste. (Did notice that many people do enjoy a view while taking care of business though!).

First a plea (albeit unnecessary since so many use nature wipe!): Please, please, please pack out toilet paper! Please respect the environment and fellow hikers. And burying it isn't enough - animals will dig it up.

Second, how to get the word out about packing TP (and garbage) out? Any ideas on spreading the word about LNT principles, especially for people new to spending time out in the woods? Perhaps posting LNT principles at trailhead boards (is that legal?)?

I'll get off my soap box now, and thanks for bearing with me. I was just so disheartened by all the litter in such a beautiful place, I just wanted to bring some awareness to it.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
gotta doo what ya gotta doo on 08/09/2012 16:07:02 MDT Print View

...just finished helping 6 make their personal wag-bag for packing out a week's worth of TP each. One earns extra bonus points by the end of the week...

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 16:22:43 MDT Print View

Why should I pack out my toilet paper? It's paper. It gets buried with the rest of my waste. You don't see it again. Or it gets burned in a fire. If there is some specific reason why burying your toilet paper is bad, I would like to know about it.

If you put a piece of paper that states the LNT principles on a trailhead board, I really don't think that anyone would mind. They might appreciate it. I see the LNT stuff posted on a lot of national forest websites, so the forest service definitley encourages that stuff.

chris Nelson

Locale: San Francisco
Re: gotta doo what ya gotta doo on 08/09/2012 16:37:50 MDT Print View


I totally agree with you. Even when we are far out in the woods we find garbage of all kinds. My GF and I have introduced many people to backpacking over the years. One of the first things I teach the newbies is to respect nature and leave no trace. Sometimes that means hiking a little further to find a less impactable camp site, picking up garbage, or destroying an attractive fire ring that is in a place where fires should no be burned.

Education is the key. I see much of my strict LNT quickly rub off on others. Making LNT not one way to do things but the only way is important.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: gotta doo what ya gotta doo on 08/09/2012 16:44:08 MDT Print View

"If there is some specific reason why burying your toilet paper is bad, I would like to know about it."

Elsewhere on this site 'lynn tramper' mentions a study looking at the decomposition of, among other things, toilet paper.

It take about two years to decompose. Unless the ground is very wet, then it takes longer.

And, IMHO, it takes a chipmunk about a day to find it and dig it up.

If you can clean your butt at home in the shower, you can clean it in the woods.

No intent here to start yet another NoTP/TP rant, but I think more than a few folks here have missed a bit of the fun... just saying...

Edited by greg23 on 08/09/2012 16:50:36 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: LNT on 08/09/2012 16:46:18 MDT Print View

I always pick up trash. Usually, all I see are little bits - rubber band, plastic bag twist tie, corner of a candy bar,...

I think that if all this "micro trash" is picked up, the next person is less likely to leave their trash behind.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: LNT on 08/09/2012 16:50:56 MDT Print View

Jerry, I agree. If it is clean it tends to stay clean.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 17:00:36 MDT Print View

If I am above tree line, with little soil and no chance of burying, then yes I will pack it out. Otherwise no; I will dig and bury. Last weekend I also came across some TP and while I did not like seeing it, it gave me the heads up that there was something else nearby. As far as it taking 2 years to decompose, I'll say that maybe in the desert that is true, but one good rain takes care of most of it. The second rain usually finishes the job.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 17:05:38 MDT Print View

And if you urinate on it after burying it, and get the whole area wet, that helps. Plus the combination of #1 and #2 decomposes faster.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 17:16:58 MDT Print View

"As far as it taking 2 years to decompose, I'll say that maybe..."

Assumptions may be interesting, but nothing beats science: This Thread covers it pretty well.

For those who are not prone to actually reading, it states, among other things, "...Indeed the two sites that exhibited little decay after 24 months (montane moorland and western alpine) had organic soil profiles..."

Edited by greg23 on 08/09/2012 17:24:36 MDT.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 18:00:31 MDT Print View

"Assumptions may be interesting, but nothing beats science: This Thread covers it pretty well. "

You are the one doing the assuming here. I take care of the grounds of a college, which means both gardening and cleaning up after students. I can tell you, without assuming anything that oranges take a long time to breakdown, banana peels turn dark within a week, shrivel up and hang around till the rains, cigarette butts lose the paper in a few weeks and the filter stays, kleenex only needs to get wet a couple of times before it leaves a hundred small specs of paper that will be dispersed with a couple of kicks. And so on and so forth. Science is it as far as I am concerned, but I don't need it for this. I know firsthand.

Chris C
(cvcass) - MLife

Locale: State of Jefferson
this is yet another opinion on 08/09/2012 18:44:19 MDT Print View

Here is dissertation created by Ron Moak of Six Moon Designs (Fallingwater),
PCT veteran:

With respect to my background and reasoning process. It's derived from a
Degree in Forest Management combined with working three years in a major
sewage treatment plant. This provides a pretty good basis for understanding
the forest ecology, forest by products (TP) and waste management.

Since I was the original author of the 3 P's (P00P, pee and puree) method of
waste disposal I thought I'd offer a few comments to the ongoing thread.

I've read most of the posts related to this topic with a fair degree of
indifference. Fundamentally it matters little to me how you treat your TP as
long as it is done environmentally (ie no forest fires please) and it's done
in a LNT manner (ie. I don't have to see it). So pack it out, burn it, bury
it in 6 foot hole, go au'natural or do the 3 P's if that's your fancy.

In general with discussions like this, we like to simplify the problem.
Simple problems are much easier to solve than complex ones. So we'll boil
the whole proper waste disposal discussion into "Get rid of the TP eyesore".
Since we've simplified the problem, let's find a simple solution. One that's
easy to remember and easy to convey when we want to pound it into someone
else's head who doesn't happen to agree with us. In this case "PACK IT OUT".
You got admit is goes well with our current nanosecond attention span.

When I originally proposed the 3 P's method, I wanted something that was
environmentally sound. Admittedly, I don't cherish the thought of packing
out used toilet paper.

Of all of the methods of dealing with waste disposal, the 3 P's is the most
environmentally sound. Why, because it deals not only with the toilet paper,
it's designed to aid in the breakdown of the waste as well.

Our bodies to an amazing job squeezing moisture out of our waste before it's
deposited. Scatology is a whole science devoted to the study of petrified

The purpose of the 3 P's is add moisture, in the form of pee or a cup of
water if you're empty, to the mix to aid in the growth of bacteria. They, in
turn, will naturally compost the waste. The TP acts as a sponge and soaks up
the moisture, slowly releasing it back as needed. By slowly releasing the
water, you increase the amount of time available to compost the waste.

Pureeing the mixture, incorporates the TP within the waste. Properly done,
there is no sign of the TP. It also mixes in some of the surrounding soil
that contains microbes helpful in breaking down the waste.

Cover it in a few inches of forest debris and you've got a little totally
unnoticed waste facility plant working to do what nature does best.
Recycling us into the next generation of plants and animals.


(some text was edited for the profanity filter)

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: this is yet another opinion on 08/09/2012 18:59:46 MDT Print View

Thanks Chris. This makes so much sense it's bound to encounter some fierce opposition.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 19:24:45 MDT Print View

When and where was this. I hike this trail many times a year and haven't seen this over the last 20 years. Group camp? how far in ? Details please. No excuse given the distance , lack of suitable ground relative to water. Thanks, John

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: this is yet another opinion on 08/09/2012 19:28:10 MDT Print View

No problem here, I 100% agree.

That said, I have burried large amounts of TP found in spring along side most trails.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Used Toilet Paper - Pack it out! on 08/09/2012 19:28:25 MDT Print View

Pack it in, pack it out. Leaving toilet paper is never a good idea if you care about LNT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Used Toilet Paper on 08/09/2012 19:55:30 MDT Print View

I have camped in some of the same spots over and over again, for years and years. Done my business and use the puree method. I have never seen any trace of reappearance. I think alot of TP found in the wild is from females doing number one. No hole. The majority of the paper I do see always looks fairly clean and like it was not subject to heavy use. Dab and toss. Always find the grosser to be closer to the trailhead. Uneducated day hikers.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: 3Ps on 08/09/2012 21:14:51 MDT Print View

I'm with Chris on this one. 3Ps, p00p soup, call it what you like, but mixing p00p, TP, liquid and dirt is as LNT as you can get. Unless you forego the TP and use leaves or direct water washing. Either way, mixing p00p and dirt with added moisture accelerates the recycling process.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Used Toilet Paper on 08/10/2012 03:48:01 MDT Print View

I see that too Ken, lots of small pieces of very clean TP. I always wondered what that was about.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Not just dayhikers on 08/10/2012 09:31:31 MDT Print View

It's easy to say that this is all caused by day-hikers, but we've found lots and lots of TP in areas that are deep in the backcountry and can't be from dayhikers. It's not a coincidence that this is often near a campsite, rather than a hiking trail itself.

And it's not just all women peeing, judging from the evidence.

We pack ours out. We pack it out because we are sick and tired of seeing other people's TP in the woods. Yeah, I know people bury it and pee on it and carefully blend it into a puree with organic material, and then serve it over ice cream. Or maybe they do most of that, but not all of it. Or they bury it four inches deep, or under a rock they found that was easy to move, or they're in a hurry this time and don't bury it at all.

And so we still see TP in the backcountry. Rodents do dig this stuff up and spread it all over the ground.

Frankly, nothing takes the bloom off a glorious wilderness campsite like finding someone else's TP behind the nearest tree.