Human waste

Incorrect disposal of excreta, toilet paper and feminine hygiene products is offensive and environmentally destructive. There are a number of alternatives for the disposal of human waste:

  • Always use toilets provided by land managers. Always close the lid to reduce the chances of toilets becoming breeding havens for flies.
  • Where there are no toilets, groups should either bury their excreta and toilet paper, or carry it out. All groups should carry a trowel for burying excreta and be informed on how and where to use it. Excreta should be buried within the soil’s organic layer, in a hole about 15 cm deep and at least 100 m from any campsite or water. Mixing excreta with loose soil before the hole is filled enhances recycling.
  • In fragile, wilderness environments, places of high use or where there are no suitable burial places because of snow, rock or proximity to water, carrying out excreta is the best option. ‘Poo tubes’ made from 100 mm PVC pipe are a good option. You carried it in; you can carry it out.
  • Sanitary pads, tampons and condoms contain non-biodegradable compounds, and removal is the only environmentally friendly option.

Particular care is required with vomit and diarrhoea—these are the most harmful excreta in terms of spreading disease to others. At the time, the person affected rarely feels concerned to bury the waste correctly in a hole dug in the soil’s top layer. Appoint someone to help the ill person in these matters.

A low impact action list
Pre trip planning
  • Evaluate the suitability of the area for your activity
  • Visit little - used areas, or high use areas in the off season
  • Keep the party small
  • Take a stove
  • Take a trowel and/or 'poo tube'
  • Take a sealable rubbish bag
  • Minimise packaging and cooking
  • Minimise the number of vehicles transporting participants
When camping
  • Use an established campsite if possible
  • Choose a good campsite and avoid modifying a poor one
  • Refrain from using vegetation and rocks as camping constructions
  • Stay a maximum of two nights in any one place
  • Avoid unnecessary trampling of vegetation
  • Avoid using soap or detergent and washing directly in any water bodies
When travelling
  • Stay on tracks where they exist and don't make new ones
  • Avoid fragile areas such as soft, marshy ground or steep, unstable dunes and hillsides
  • Spread out in untracked areas
  • Don't blaze or mark trails or build cairns
  • Regularly clean your boots, clothes and gear of soil and plant matter
  • Match your footwear with the arduousness of the trail
  • Use a stove if possible
  • Use established fire sites if available
  • Keep the fire small
  • Avoid tree roots, stumps and overhanging trees
  • If there is no established fire site, light the fire in a trench and replace the top layer when finished
  • Share a fire with others
  • Thoroughly extinguish the fire when finished
  • Scatter ashes and unburnt wood
  • If a toilet is provide - use it
  • If there is no toilet - always bury excreta or bring it home
  • Keep excreta far from water supplies
  • Ensure ill party members have help to deal correctly with diarrhoea and vomit
  • Wash your hands away from water
Throughout the whole trip
  • Be considerate of other groups - especially with noise
  • Leave an area cleaner than you found it