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Managing Waste in a Survival Situation

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Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first reached the peak in 1953, roughly 4,000 people have climbed to the top of Mount Everest. Hundreds more have attempted this famous feat.

On the two most common routes to the top of the mountain, climbers have left behind a mess of debris — oxygen canisters, climbing equipment, trash… even human waste. Typically, climbers dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the waste there, which means it’s been piling up for years.

This isn’t a new issue, but it’s finally reached a point where the Nepali government has mandated new rules for climbers. In short, the government requires each climber to bring down 18 pounds of trash — or the amount the government estimates each climber produces.

This means people will have to be much more mindful of how they dispose of their waste than in the past.

Waste Away

Even though you probably won’t be climbing Everest soon, I do want to go over a few ways to safely and efficiently dispose of trash and human waste in a survival situation.

When it comes to dealing with human waste, obviously, you want to use the toilets in your home for as long as they are functional. If water supply is a concern, I recommend flushing only when there is a solid. If the water is shut off or the plumbing isn’t working, you can use a bucket of water to flush, like so:

1. Fill a bucket with water.
2. Take off the lid to the toilet tank and set it to the side.
3. Slowly pour the water into the toilet tank.
4. Stop when the water level is 1/2 inch below the top of the overflow tube (the hollow tube that sticks up near the flush valve).
5. Flush as normal. Note that you will have to refill the toilet tank after each flush.

If using your toilet isn’t an option, I recommend going to the bathroom in large buckets. Use one bucket as a urinal and another for solids — this will make disposal much easier.

Get buckets with tight-fitting lids and handles. Uline brand buckets are airtight and come in a variety of sizes. To help with the odor, you can add a little bleach to each bucket. In addition, I recommend adding cat litter to the bucket for solids after each use. This will also help reduce the smell.

Take It Outside

When the buckets fill up, you will need to empty them outside your home. Ideally, you should do this as far away from your home as possible.

Don’t just dump them and walk away — you need to bury your waste. Dig a small hole, dispose of the contents and cover with dirt. Make sure to use a different dumping location each time so you don’t saturate a particular area.

I realize this isn’t the most pleasant topic to think about. But if you don’t plan for how to get rid of your waste, it could end up killing you in a crisis situation. Infectious diseases can spread rapidly when waste is improperly disposed of.

I suggest taking some time this weekend to buy buckets (with lids), kitty litter and bleach. You can always use the buckets for other things in the meantime and hope you never need to use them as a commode.

One last thing: Don’t forget to stock up on toilet paper as well. In a survival situation, this small comfort will make a huge difference.

One Comment

  • Epischer says:

    Waste management is certainly something many people likely overlook and is extremely important to plan for.

    I would recommend considering a biogas digester. This could safely solves all your waste disposal problems. Building one yourself can be fairly simple and inexpensive, provide fuel for cooking, electricity, heat, and with a few minor alterations, fuel for an automobile.

    Just a thought.

    “Waste not want not” … Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

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