I designed a 9-week experiment to determine how well waste would decompose in a 6-inch cathole versus a 12-inch cathole.
I used kitchen compost, Kirkland brand wipes, toilet paper, an egg, and half a banana in each hole.
The primary purpose of this article is to raise awareness about Leave No Trace principles. The secondary purpose of this article is to encourage you to not make a big mess in the woods by burying your waste deeper than 6 inches.
This article is not to criticize Leave No Trace. No other outdoor organization does as much good as they do.
Discussion Points For Your Class or Your Outdoor Partners
- How good are you at leaving no trace when you poop outdoors?
- Can you do better? How?
- Based solely on your current opinion, how deep should you dig your cathole?
- Have you ever come across someone else’s mess in the woods? Is that a big deal to you?
- Kitchen scraps are not human waste – this isn’t science.
- What other areas of leaving no trace can you improve?
- Is music at the climbing crag a leave no trace issue?
- Is carving your initial or love notes on trees or picnic benches part of leaving no trace?
- How can you encourage your hiking, climbing, and camping partners to do better at leaving no trace?
Conclusions Derived From The 9 Week Experiment:
- Rate of decomposition of buried waste materials at 6 and 12 inches is clearly identical.
- A 6 and 12 inch cathole is indistinguishable from the surface.
- Kirkland wipes will completely decompose when buried at either 6 and 12 inches.
- Unburied wipes / paper decomposes at a significantly slower rate.
- Your cathole should, more than likely, be deeper than 6 inches.
- Dig your catholes to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. That will allow for plenty of top cover (the soil that you place back over your used cathole) so that another hiker, climber, or camper will not disturb your used cathole if they happen upon it.
- Design you own experiments.
- Begin a discussion.
- Raise awareness.