/ ARTICLE: Burying and carrying-out waste: Why are we so far behind the US?

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UKC/UKH Articles 07 Oct 2019
Poo pack box at Loch Lomond. Jake Chapman writes about the taboo subject of pooing outdoors and what we should do with our poo...

One spring, Heather Morning and her fellow rangers witnessed a blooming of a different kind in the Cairngorms National Park: human faeces, preserved by the previous winter's snow, thawing in the springtime sun. Heather knew that the piles of faeces were left by groups of snow-holers. It just so happened that the best snow-holing sites sat right next to high level mountain springs, making the faeces potential pollutants of the water supply. 'We realised there was a big issue and that we needed to do something about it,' Heather says.



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r0x0r.wolfo 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

I've never needed to shit at the crag in the US or UK. Barring health issues, I don't think you need to for single day stuff. I don't want a poo bag dispenser at Stanage but you're going to find the odd shit there despite a toliet at the bottom. 

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DerwentDiluted 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

I think Dave the Rave deserves special mention for his efforts to keep Snowdonia national park looking.... booty full.

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Ramblin dave 07 Oct 2019
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

> I think Dave the Rave deserves special mention for his efforts to keep Snowdonia national park looking.... booty full.

Yep, he's a shoe-in for that one.

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datoon 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Maybe BMC owned crags should have portaloos or composting toilets near them...  

Rifle, Frankenjura and I'm sure other crags around the World have them...

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jimtitt 07 Oct 2019
In reply to datoon:

I've been climbing in the Frankenjura for 30 years and never seen one.

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Hardonicus 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

A cultural shift is definitely required in my opinion.

Maybe if the Scots sorted out there terrible attitude towards quality beer and food, people wouldn't have the kind of gut rot after a night out that necessitates the deposition of an 'on-sight' jobbie.

Post edited at 13:46
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Mike Stretford 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles: I'm not sure there's a problem in England. I might be lucky but I don't think I've ever discovered anything unpleasant at an English crag. Not claiming we have superior habits, more the geography.

Post edited at 13:37
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Sean_J 07 Oct 2019
In reply to Mike Stretford:

Having seen the minefields of Fontainebleau and Kalymnos (amongst several other Euro venues), I think we very do much have superior habits actually.

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neilh 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Because we do not have deserts and equivalent to national parks???

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neilh 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Because we do not have deserts and equivalent to national parks??

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Alex Riley 07 Oct 2019
In reply to jimtitt:

I’ve not climbed much in frankenjura, but every crag we climbed at had a blue portaloo, usually in the nearest car park (and always spotlessly clean).

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tom_in_edinburgh 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Carrying it out is the way to go.  A suitable plastic bag in the rucksack 'just in case' and when wild camping takes up hardly any space or extra weight.  It should just be something you carry when you are hillwalking.  I don't see why they need to be free or provided from dispensers with big signs. 

Unless they've got a budget to clean them regularly there's no point in installing toilets in more remote areas, they'll just get so manky nobody will use them. 

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jimtitt 07 Oct 2019
In reply to Alex Riley:

> I’ve not climbed much in frankenjura, but every crag we climbed at had a blue portaloo, usually in the nearest car park (and always spotlessly clean).


I've seen a few in walkers parking spaces (usually accompanied by notices banning overnight camping as vanlyfe becomes a plague) but maybe I don't go to the right crags.

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gethin_allen 07 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

The real issue is that people don't give a sh!t about where they sh1t. We were having our lunch half way up the North face of Tryfan when a bloke just below us dropped dropped his bowels between some rocks and then dropped a load of tissues on top. It was so blatant, there were people walking around less than 10 feet away.

If I ever need to go (very rarely), it's usually after lunch and I pack it out in the bag I had my sandwiches in. Not ideal with using plastic but better than leaving rank turds around the place.

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Tony Jones 08 Oct 2019
In reply to gethin_allen:

> If I ever need to go (very rarely), it's usually after lunch and I pack it out in the bag I had my sandwiches in. Not ideal with using plastic but better than leaving rank turds around the place.

I'm not sure that would work for me as the urge often comes before lunch.

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Dr.S at work 08 Oct 2019
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Do you do that currently Tom? I can see it for an overnighter, but for longer trips I could see it being a bit of a bother. 

it Seems from the article that responsible burying is still promoted in Scotland - is there evidence about which approach is best? Or indeed the dreadful practices of those that originate south of the border?

(I appreciate that in some cases eg the snowholing one, packing it out is the most practicable one)

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Siward 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Dr.S at work:

I was surprised at the attitude expressed by the author's friends: "recently, my friends scoffed at my taking at a trowel on a climbing trip to Scotland and my recommending that they use it—'There's absolutely no way I'm ever doing that!'"

Really? Who are these people? Presumably the same who just poo in streams or on that nice grassy sward over there. 

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nufkin 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Siward:

>  poo in streams or on that nice grassy sward

Without wanting to condone careless pooing, how long does it take an exposed turd to dry out/break down to an acceptably inoffensive level? I've always been a burier on camping trips, but have wondered if maybe 'exposed on a rock' might not actually be better if it dried out and disintegrated in a few days

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tom_in_edinburgh 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> Do you do that currently Tom? I can see it for an overnighter, but for longer trips I could see it being a bit of a bother. 

Yeah, for wild camping it works fine for me.   I've been doing long distance trails and usually I pass by a bin within a few hours of starting to walk.  Probably more of a nuisance if you were going somewhere remote and staying there for a few days.

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Inhambane 08 Oct 2019
In reply to nufkin:

I read that in the desert leaving it on a rock is apparently the preferred method (if you don't pack it out) as there is no bacteria in the sand to aid decomposition so the sun will help destroy the pathogens.     Also i hear if you smear it about it dries quicker and the wind carries it away.  

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henwardian 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Nobody has mentioned people density, climate or the difference between poo and paper.

If the people density is sufficiently low, pooing on the open ground and letting nature take it's course (in Scotland it's basically going to be rain washing it into the soil in a couple of days) has always been the way I've seen as perfectly logical. There are plenty of birds and wild animals that poo and die and rot all over the place and this obviously doesn't cause a problem for water supplies in the main as it's going on everywhere and all the time. I can see the problem when visitor density becomes an issue but having climbed and travelled all over Scotland, the problems are very rarely human excrement and much more commonly...

Toilet paper - it doesn't break down very quickly and is a problem. People should be encouraged to burn it or carry it out. This is the issue in my book. In Scotland it's pretty difficult to cause a proper fire when the water table is above ground level (which is 90% of the time) and if it is particularly dry, use some common sense with where you burn your paper or just put it in a bin instead. Speaking personally, I can't remember the last time I left toilet paper just lying around outdoors and packing it out if you can't burn it is a lot less nasty and grim than packing out your whole poo.

People have mentioned places like Kalymnos and Font as comparisons but these places differ greatly from Scotland - they have hundreds, if not thousands of times the visitor density of Scottish crags and, at least in Kalymnos, it basically never rains so excrement tends to sit there rather than become part of the soil.

I do take exception to the idea that National Parks UK are finding it hard to monetise visitors because they can't charge entry fees. It costs £65 for an entire year of unlimited access to ALL national parks in the USA where, at least when I was last there, there was mainly free parking. In the UK pay-and-display car parks are popping up all over the place in National Parks where it costs up to £5 a day to park your vehicle. So who is really making more money per visitor?! Taxing visitors to access wild places isn't a policy in the USA and it shouldn't be in the UK.

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Richie Ross 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Great idea.

More education is definitely needed. I believe most responsible outdoors people would bury/cary out their waste.

If we do not act responsibly in this regard our crags will end up looking like Font (i.e. a sh*t hole)

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Inhambane 08 Oct 2019
In reply to henwardian:

> There are plenty of birds and wild animals that poo and die and rot all over the place and this obviously doesn't cause a problem for water supplies in the main as it's going on everywhere and all the time.... 

But the feces of (infected) humans poses a higher risk than other animals feces as it is more likely to contain pathogens that are harmful to us (especially during decomposition).  To humans the most dangerous feces to come into contact with is humans and then dogs.  Therefore greater concentrations of it in the wild especially near water sources poses an elevated risk to them.  The time it takes for it to decompose is longer than you think depending on conditions it could be over years.  Just because it is out of sight doesn't mean it is out of mind. 

The feces of herbivores poses little risk to humans. If you are fit and well it is technically safe to eat your own feces (not that anyone would want to).   

Post edited at 12:40
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tom_in_edinburgh 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Inhambane:

>  Therefore greater concentrations of it in the wild especially near water sources poses an elevated risk to them.  The time it takes for it to decompose is longer than you think depending on conditions it could be over years.  Just because it is out of sight doesn't mean it is out of mind. 

For much of the time the whole of the highlands of Scotland looks like a water source...

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Howard J 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Leaving aside the emotive issue of charging, the fact is that national parks in the US (and many other parts of the world) are very different from those in the UK (where they are basically areas where special town and country planning rules apply) and are able to exercise much tighter controls over visitors.  There is also a much greater awareness of the preparations needed for going into true wilderness, which often doesn't arise in the UK's more domesticated countryside.

There is certainly a cultural problem which needs to be overcome by education.  However there's also a lack of other facilities - for example, where (other than the Cairngorms) can you get suitable bags for carrying out waste? Improvising with sandwich bags or supermarket carriers can have unfortunate consequences as they often cannot be properly sealed.

The other problem is that many of the culprits may be ordinary visitors who are even less aware of the issue and less likely to be prepared.  I'm sure it is these people and not climbers who go under boulders and at the foot of routes, believing they have found an out-of-the-way spot and not realising it is well-used.  However there was a recent thread here complaining about climbers "going" in caves, so we are not always very aware of how others use the countryside.

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ballsac 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

there's a very obvious reason thats not been touched on - and there are others, described above - and its called predators....

people take great care with their shit in the US and Canada because leaving a turd out is begging for a bear, or half-a-dozen wolves to follow you around. they take the same care over food for the same reason.

we leave turds, and litter, out in the outdoors because - while it may look bad - its not going to kill you. thats not a luxury they have, so they don't.

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wilkie14c 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

As with everything in life, a minority affects the majority. Education is of course the way forward to reduce the poo problem but you’ll always have folk who go at the foot of the crag. I don’t think these are exclusively climbers though. 

We made it a social faux pas to let your dog shit in the street, now everyone bags it and many even take it home with them rather than decorating the adjacent trees with bags. It reduced the original problem massively but created another problem entirely. 

We get lots of design students on here declaring they have an idea for a new piece of kit, maybe one reading this can think about a lightweight trowel that folds small and holds a few sheets of paper?? 

(BTW, nobody likes carrying around a warm turd even if it’s in a bag. An old chalk bag with belt makes a great poobag and treats holder when out with the dog, bagged up poos can be dropped in the chalk bag to take home rather than in your pocket)

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Rob Parsons 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Inhambane:

> If you are fit and well it is technically safe to eat your own feces ...

Well, that's the solution to the entire problem, right there.

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Rob Parsons 08 Oct 2019
In reply to wilkie14c:

> We get lots of design students on here declaring they have an idea for a new piece of kit, maybe one reading this can think about a lightweight trowel that folds small and holds a few sheets of paper?? 

That was done yonks ago by Tim Macartney Snape's company 'Sea To Summit'. The product was originally called the iPood - until spoilsports from Apple came calling. See https://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/22/ipood/

Post edited at 16:22
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Jake Chapman 08 Oct 2019
In reply to datoon:

> Maybe BMC owned crags should have portaloos or composting toilets near them... 

The BMC considered installing a composting toilet at Horseshoe Quarry in the Peak, but they decided against it as emptying the compost and just generally managing the toilet would be too costly. I do agree though, more composting toilets would be ideal!

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ScottTalbot 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

I just double bag it and carry it out. Far less hassle than carrying a trowel and digging holes. I spend a large chunk of my life carrying dog pooh in little bags, so it's not a great hardship for me.

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marsbar 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Howard J:

Any pet shop will have poo bags.  If you are that worried double up.  Get a container with a screw top and rubber seal, put the bags in there.  It's really not complicated.  

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Pedro50 08 Oct 2019
In reply to wilkie14c:

> We made it a social faux pas to let your dog shit in the street, now everyone bags it and many even take it home with them rather than decorating the adjacent trees with bags. It reduced the original problem massively but created another problem entirely. 

If only all that were true. 

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Jake Chapman 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Mike Stretford:

> I'm not sure there's a problem in England. I might be lucky but I don't think I've ever discovered anything unpleasant at an English crag. Not claiming we have superior habits, more the geography.


You are lucky! I think it's a case of knowing where to look. Most people will wander off to secluded spots, so unless you're doing the same you're unlikely to find any turds in plain sight. Well, unless you were climbing at Water-cum-Jolly last summer: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156137052457187&set=p.10156137052457187&type=3&theater

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Jake Chapman 08 Oct 2019
In reply to nufkin:

> Without wanting to condone careless pooing, how long does it take an exposed turd to dry out/break down to an acceptably inoffensive level? I've always been a burier on camping trips, but have wondered if maybe 'exposed on a rock' might not actually be better if it dried out and disintegrated in a few days

Spreading is only recommended in hot and arid places, like deserts. You'll be waiting a long time for the sun to come out in the UK, and even then I don't think it's powerful enough to kill off all of the bacteria.

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Mike Stretford 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Jake Chapman:

> You are lucky! I think it's a case of knowing where to look. Most people will wander off to secluded spots, so unless you're doing the same you're unlikely to find any turds in plain sight.

I must admit I don't have the knowledge. Anyway, it's mingin......this is rural England not some wildness! They should go back to the car, drive to the nearest pub, buy half a soft drink, and loose a few kilos! And that's on the odd occasion people forget to go before or for some reason get taken by surprise.

>Well, unless you were climbing at Water-cum-Jolly last summer: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156137052457187&set=p.10156137052457187&type=3&theater

Blocked at work, fortunately.

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wilkie14c 08 Oct 2019
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Well to be fair, their ipods are shit 

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BruceM 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Car and van roadside/carpark camping is just as bad an issue (as mentioned in Dan's recent article on car camping in Scotland.)

There appears to be a strong feeling amongst many van dwellers in web-land that you can just crap in the woods -- long as you dig it in -- because toilets in vans are stinky no no's that nobody would want. 

And that might have been OK years ago, when van living wasn't that popular.  But now...everyone seems to van it.  And the density of car/van camping has exploded in Scotland and elsewhere.  So places like the North Face car park at the Ben in winter in particular, must now have a ground crap saturation density per metre approaching near 100%.

And that is from the considerate dig-in crappers.

In New Zealand they basically outlawed rental "campers" that don't contain toilets ("Wicked camper" style things), and introduced certification for private campers/vans. 

That probably is the way to go up here.  Toilets on board or no parking.

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nufkin 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Jake Chapman:

>  You'll be waiting a long time for the sun to come out in the UK, and even then I don't think it's powerful enough to kill off all of the bacteria

Short of actually defecating into a water source (with historic and contemporary cholera epidemics illustrating the dangers of this), I wonder how transmittable such bacteria would be? If I, hypothetically, were to leave a turd five metres from a river, say, it seems like there's effectively five metres of filtration between source and destination, from a microscopic point of view. I wouldn't, and even if I did I'd bury it, but in principle perhaps it's not as risky as traditionally feared 

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Inhambane 09 Oct 2019
In reply to nufkin:

> Short of actually defecating into a water source (with historic and contemporary cholera epidemics illustrating the dangers of this), I wonder how transmittable such bacteria would be? If I, hypothetically, were to leave a turd five metres from a river, say, it seems like there's effectively five metres of filtration between source and destination, from a microscopic point of view. I wouldn't, and even if I did I'd bury it, but in principle perhaps it's not as risky as traditionally feared 

But the problem shouldn't be thought of as a one off turd, but more so the accumulation of them over time.  The greater the accumulation the greater the risk to the environment.

Also there are many other variables that would need to be considered when burying.  Height of ground water, other animals disturbing the land (dogs, birds, insects) porosity of the soil, topography of the land, rainfall etc.  

I would also assume that most people are not 100% effective at burying and that there would be some residual surface level contamination as well.   

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Mike Stretford 09 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles: I didn't realise this was such a problem. Anyway with Christmas round the corner we have the perfect stocking filler for climbers with unpredictable bowels

https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/beco/beco-compostable-poo-bags---60-bags/?PCode=DSGPESS15&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzNi39J6P5QIVzsjeCh1J0A-wEAQYAiABEgLsnPD_BwE

No excuses now.

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nufkin 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Inhambane:

>  Also there are many other variables that would need to be considered when burying.  Height of ground water, other animals disturbing the land (dogs, birds, insects) porosity of the soil, topography of the land, rainfall etc.  

Seems like there's potential here for a proper study, and some nice graphs showing quantity of pathogens against distance from source and such

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Wilderbeest 09 Oct 2019
In reply to wilkie14c:

I did have the idea of a Tupperware type container with a flexible membrane in the middle and lids at each end. It starts off the weekend/trip full of sandwiches and as you empty the sandwiches from one end you would fill the other end with the results and pack it out...

fairly obviously never going to catch on.  But taking doggy poo bags from pet shops with you isn’t a bad alternative is it...

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marsbar 09 Oct 2019
Wilderbeest 09 Oct 2019
In reply to marsbar:

I was going to patent it and call it the snacker-crapper

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Roberttaylor 10 Oct 2019
In reply to Rob Parsons:

I have one of these. OK in sand or soft ground but it struggles with anything tougher. Probably worth carrying a heftier trowel most of the time.

For anyone doing 'van life' and wanting to be more responsible about it; you probably already have a small bin. Buy some of those portable toilet refill bags from needlesports https://www.needlesports.com/Catalogue/Accessories/Medical-Cosmetic/Clean-Waste-Go-Anywhere-Toilet-Kit-WAG-Bag-MET-WAG and, should the need arise when there is nowhere good to go, you can stretch this over your bin and use it as a makeshift loo. 

The rise in popularity of vanning it is definitely leading to issues.

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TobyA 10 Oct 2019
In reply to Rob Parsons:

I've got an original iPood from before Apple stopped the fun, every time I bury an emergency dump with it, I feel like I'm sticking it to the man. 

Oddly I'm also a long time user of an iPod for all my podcast consumption - and I have never once mixed it up with my poo burying trowel.

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Pete_Frost 13:34 Fri
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

You are setting a great example that I wish everyone would follow. Unfortunately, the evidence is that there are people who don't have your determination or bowel control. I don't want to see poo bag dispensers anywhere, but I would much rather see them at car parks and entry points than run the risk of treading on a turd, having my dog roll in human excrement, or seeing "French Flowers" (aka toilet paper) everywhere. We have 60 million people packed onto a small island and if only a few get caught short that is a lot of sh!t to deal with.

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Clip gate 07:41 Sat
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Since my big walling experience I took up the habit of taking a pooh bag with me in my first aid gear. They are cheap to buy from Needle sports and contain all that you need to deal with the unforeseen pooh at the crag. Why not make that part of your climbing gear you take with you. 

https://www.needlesports.com/Catalogue/Accessories/Medical-Cosmetic/Clean-Waste-Go-Anywhere-Toilet-Kit-WAG-Bag-MET-WAG

Post edited at 07:52
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Clip gate 07:43 Sat
In reply to jimtitt:

Me neither but there are lots of woods where the trowl method works well.

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David Coley 09:17 Sat
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Just wondering what most people's problem is with poo. Is it what one might consider a real concern over water contamination, or, stepping in it, visual over the poo, visual over the paper?

I live surrounded by farms and my wife has a horse. So poo is everywhere and everything gets poo on it. 

My family's poo and the neighbours' goes into a pit in the adjoining field, this is never emptied but leaks through the soil out across the field and into the river. The time this takes being enough to break it down and kill everything. Meanwhile sheep and cattle munch away on top.

Assuming that the concern over water pollution is not real in most locations, assuming that the poo is not where one might tread, and people use grass and plants to wipe (as I taught my kids) , what is the issue in MOST locations? In places where there are lots of people pooing there might be a an issue or in drier climates. But in most UK settings? 

I almost get the feeling people have a problem with poo. In and of itself. This seems to fade a little if they have spent time covered in kid's poo or whiping the bottoms of the elderly.

Having used the USA approach of carrying it out and putting it and the quite thick plastic used in a Wag bag in the trash, I was left wondering, is it good to be landfilling this stuff (longterm plastic pollution and short term methane ie green house gas generation) rather than simply shitting in the woods or elsewhere. Given that in many places this might be only a question of visual aesthetic. 

Clearly, if there is a high density of people to poo or walk in it things are different, or if people are drinking directly from water sources, but I wonder if either is true in 99 percent of the UK landscape? 

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In reply to David Coley:

My dog is in a very happy place at the moment, as everything is coming down to low pasture, all the meadows and fields are ankle deep in pooh. I’m trying my best to stop him spending his walks grazing the cow and sheep pooh. And rolling in fox pooh.

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