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  1. #1

    Default Biodegradable Wipes

    Is there really such a thing?

  2. #2

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    No

    You should not bring them unless you intend to pack out.

  3. #3

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    Lots of things will biodegrade given the right conditions and enough time. For LNT purposes, mostly not. Doggy poop sacks make a good pick up and store first layer for wipes and such, or so I am told.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  4. #4

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    Definitely more of an advertising claim than a reality in the woods. Designers are now having to install macerator units in sewer lines to chop up things like biodegradable wipes so they don't plug up the sewer systems.

    This time of year when I am out hiking in areas where there are winter campers I can see the "lilies" from folks that assumed that crapping in snow means the waste will magically go away when the snow melts.

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    I just bring some paper towels (I’m partial to Bounty) and wet them down to use, add a drop or two of dr. Bronners and I find they work even better than wet wipes.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  6. #6

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    We just end up having to pull the wipes out of the composted privy product before spreading it out in the woods. The only thing in the privy should be stuff that’s been in your mouth first and TP.

    Don’t flush them down the toilet, either.

    Cosmo

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    I just bring some paper towels (I’m partial to Bounty) and wet them down to use, add a drop or two of dr. Bronners and I find they work even better than wet wipes.
    Do used ones go in the cathole? how do paper towels degrade compared to TP? Very curious if anybody knows this!

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    Quote Originally Posted by trailmercury View Post
    Do used ones go in the cathole? how do paper towels degrade compared to TP? Very curious if anybody knows this!
    Since paper towels are being discussed as a replacement to wet wipes, like wet wipes, I believe you should always pack out paper towels.
    I can't find much that talks about the difference of the biodegradable difference in toilet paper v. paper towels, with one exception... plumbing/septic systems. While a septic tank can handle toilet paper (and even then certain types of toilet paper can still cause problems in a septic tank system) you should never flush paper towels. Even companies that produce "flushable wipes" will claim still remind you to not flush paper towels or wet wipes.

    And on the subject of "flushable wipes", I believe they too should be packed out.
    One thing I did learn trying to google this subject is that TP requires copious amounts of water to break down... and all evidence seems to show that flushable wipes take much longer.

    So even "flushable" wipes should be packed out and not buried in a cat hole.

  9. #9

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    but what if we are discussing paper towels as an alternate to TP. I think Sarcasm the elf is using paper towels only and no TP. I'm all for LNT, but putting TP of any sort in a "proper" cathole was historically acceptable.

  10. #10

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    As far a privies are concerned, paper towels will do fine in a mouldering type of privy. These are characterized by a slatted crib underneath and a bucket of forest duff or bag of wood shavings in the outhouse to help aerate the pile and speed decomposition.

    At higher elevation or high use areas a faster, more intensively managed system used (typically in the Whites). They probably can't handle the paper towels as well, so I would recommend packing them out. The same applies to catholes, where decomp is likely to be slower--and the bulkier paper towels are harder to fully bury.

    "Wipes" of any kind should not be deposited in any toilet. They do not decompose and must be picked out of the waste stream--both in the backcountry, private septic systems, and municipal waste treatment plants.

    Cosmo

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feral Bill View Post
    Lots of things will biodegrade given the right conditions and enough time. For LNT purposes, mostly not. Doggy poop sacks make a good pick up and store first layer for wipes and such, or so I am told.
    The problem is that mostly the biodegradable character is defined by marketing more than reality.

    Sea to Summit’s formulation will be 50% biodegrade in 22 days according to tests.

    Others will be 1% at one year. Huge range there.

    Most users seem not to care about where their product fits on the range. Others won’t even use two ply toilet paper.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by trailmercury View Post
    but what if we are discussing paper towels as an alternate to TP. I think Sarcasm the elf is using paper towels only and no TP. I'm all for LNT, but putting TP of any sort in a "proper" cathole was historically acceptable.
    To clarify, I bring one ply Scott brand TP, the same stuff I use at home because of my old septic. I use paper towels for other daily hygiene practices. I have thought about using paper towels instead of TP, but have not tried largely since I have the same questions that HooKooDooKu raises in his post.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

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    Seems like there is always enough variety of plastic packaging in my trash bag to pack out the nasties. If only I could change a label to Mountain House of ***** or something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bighammer View Post
    Seems like there is always enough variety of plastic packaging in my trash bag to pack out the nasties. If only I could change a label to Mountain House of ***** or something.
    Maybe you could just print this out as a warning label.
    EBACD9B9-2FF8-434A-BC07-50460A988E8F.jpeg
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

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    Privies: paper towels (ouch!) or normal TP (and poo) is OK. Wet Wipes, for the "normal" cleansing (washing) would need to be packed out. No all that difficult, just shove the one or two you use in your food bag (expended packages, etc...), then dispose of at the next available bin. As for "biodegradable wipes", I'd say if they're for no. 2 (like normal TP) then you're good to go, if not then pack it out. If they're more like wet wipes, pack 'em out.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  16. #16

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    Long ago I worked in a towel and tissue papermill. Toilet paper and towel was made on the same machine, its all came down to the density of the sheet and additives used to change the properties. A towel and tissue machine takes a suspension of cellulose fiber and a lot of water, initially drains the water out which aligns and interweaves the cellulose fibers, then squeezes the rough mat of wet fiber and eventually bakes the remaining water out of the sheet. Cellulose breaks down rapidly in organic soil as long as its wet. Plop some toilet paper on a dry ridge line with no soil and it will be there a long time. There is trade off when making TP, to make it soft they make it fluffy which impacts its strength. We used to make Defense Department mil spec toilet paper on occasion and it was super strong and thin but was definitely not soft. Take a roll of military toilet paper and it will bounce, take a consumer roll and it will not bounce. There are also different types of cellulose fibers roughly split between "virgin" fiber from either softwood or hardwood trees or recycled fiber. Virgin softwood fiber is typically strong not soft and is used in something like a grocery store paper bag. It will take a longer time to degrade. Virgin hardwood is usually softer, it usually breaks down quicker. Recycled fiber consists of fiber that has been beat up, its less strong and tends to break down the quickest. There is also damp toiler paper that manufacturers have been trying to replace conventional toilet paper. They should be avoided as they can be mix of synthetic fibers and wet strength additives like latex.

    Toweling can be made on the same machine but the density of the sheet is higher and its "creped" that makes it bulkier. The problem is most people want paper towels to be strong when wet and the easiest way to do that is put in an additive along with the cellulose fiber. I dont know what they use today but in the past latex based wet strength was added. Wet strength additives glue the fibers together and makes the paper water resistant. This really slows down the speed of breaking down. Unlike cellulose, the latex is not typically found in the woods so the colonies of organisms in the soil arent present to break it down. The water resistance also keeps water out and that slows the organisms from getting at the fibers. Toweling also can be made with a mix of synthetic fibers. The synthetic fibers are essentially plastic which can take hundreds of years to degrade. It really isnt biodegraded, its photodegraded into smaller particles that eventually mix into the soil or get taken up into the food chain.

    To a land manager that has to deal with human waste like all the AT clubs, the goal is Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) and its lot easier to tell folks that TP is okay and Towels are not. Places like BSP generally supply toilet paper to assure that biodegradable TP is used.

    For backpackers, its best to use the cheapest 100% recycled fiber toilet paper. Scott Brand is one brand but store brands or commercial/institutional brands used in restaurants and hotels usually work just as well.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 05-03-2019 at 06:18.

  17. #17

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    Coleman makes these, though I don't think they should go in a privy:
    Product Info for Coleman Wipes Bio

    Freshen up, even when you're roughing it, with Coleman® Bio Wipes. Each package contains 30 pre-moistened, all-purpose wipes-perfect for wiping soiled hands, faces. The fragrance-free formula is gentle on sensitive skin, and each large, 8 in. x 11 in. wipe is compostable. Wipes come in a resealable package to prevent them from drying out after repeated use. The small package fits inside backpacks, glove boxes and purses for use during outdoor explorations or everyday adventures.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Long ago I worked in a towel and tissue papermill. Toilet paper and towel was made on the same machine, its all came down to the density of the sheet and additives used to change the properties. A towel and tissue machine takes a suspension of cellulose fiber and a lot of water, initially drains the water out which aligns and interweaves the cellulose fibers, then squeezes the rough mat of wet fiber and eventually bakes the remaining water out of the sheet. Cellulose breaks down rapidly in organic soil as long as its wet. Plop some toilet paper on a dry ridge line with no soil and it will be there a long time. There is trade off when making TP, to make it soft they make it fluffy which impacts its strength. We used to make Defense Department mil spec toilet paper on occasion and it was super strong and thin but was definitely not soft. Take a roll of military toilet paper and it will bounce, take a consumer roll and it will not bounce. There are also different types of cellulose fibers roughly split between "virgin" fiber from either softwood or hardwood trees or recycled fiber. Virgin softwood fiber is typically strong not soft and is used in something like a grocery store paper bag. It will take a longer time to degrade. Virgin hardwood is usually softer, it usually breaks down quicker. Recycled fiber consists of fiber that has been beat up, its less strong and tends to break down the quickest. There is also damp toiler paper that manufacturers have been trying to replace conventional toilet paper. They should be avoided as they can be mix of synthetic fibers and wet strength additives like latex.

    Toweling can be made on the same machine but the density of the sheet is higher and its "creped" that makes it bulkier. The problem is most people want paper towels to be strong when wet and the easiest way to do that is put in an additive along with the cellulose fiber. I dont know what they use today but in the past latex based wet strength was added. Wet strength additives glue the fibers together and makes the paper water resistant. This really slows down the speed of breaking down. Unlike cellulose, the latex is not typically found in the woods so the colonies of organisms in the soil arent present to break it down. The water resistance also keeps water out and that slows the organisms from getting at the fibers. Toweling also can be made with a mix of synthetic fibers. The synthetic fibers are essentially plastic which can take hundreds of years to degrade. It really isnt biodegraded, its photodegraded into smaller particles that eventually mix into the soil or get taken up into the food chain.

    To a land manager that has to deal with human waste like all the AT clubs, the goal is Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) and its lot easier to tell folks that TP is okay and Towels are not. Places like BSP generally supply toilet paper to assure that biodegradable TP is used.

    For backpackers, its best to use the cheapest 100% recycled fiber toilet paper. Scott Brand is one brand but store brands or commercial/institutional brands used in restaurants and hotels usually work just as well.
    Great details and insights! Thanks!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    I have thought about using paper towels instead of TP, but have not tried largely since I have the same questions that HooKooDooKu raises in his post.
    The more I research, the more I seem to find either direct or indirect instructions that ONLY TP should be tossed in a privy or buried with pooh. Anything else including wet wipes, bio-degradable wipes, flush-able wipes, and paper towels (despite what Cosmo says above) should be packed out.

    1. I've already pointed out how septic systems only want TP, and it's very easy to find references that claim even flush-able wipes can be bad for a septic tank.
    2. Any "official" instructions for LNT or Privy use specify ONLY TP: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home...waste-disposal
    3. Even discussions on moldering privies warn not to use TOO MUCH TP (and that's the reason I would discount Cosmo's advice, especially in view of the details peakbagger provided).



    BTW: For those who think packing TP out rather than leaving it in the woods should give it a go. When I hiked the JMT, packing out even TP was a requirement. Yeah, at first I though that it was going to be a gross prospect. But once I was on the trail, I found it to not be a big deal at all... Even after carrying some used TP around for over a week. All I did was to have 1 snack-size ziploc pre-day preloaded with a small amount of baking soda (which I likely coold have left out) and a second dedicated ziploc to store the daily used ziplocs in.

    Even today, when I camp in GSMNP where you are allowed to bury your TP... if I find I need to pull over and simply "wipe down there", I carry a small ziploc with some baking soda in it and simply place my TP in there and pack it out rather than taking the time to dig a cat hole just to dispose of some TP.
    Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 05-03-2019 at 13:41.

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    I use Bamboo dry Baby wipes, they are very soft and supposed to be biodegradable. I usually pack them out, but I've buried them in cat holes as well. I'd never leave them in a privy, I don't think they biodegrade fast enough. Definitely faster than traditional wet wipes though and they don't have any plastics/microplastics that can get into waterways. The ones I get off of amazon claim no chemicals as well - which 1 ups it from toilet paper which use sulfates so it breaks down faster (definitely good in privies/toilets, not so good in the woods in cat holes).

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