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Decomposition of Human Waste

How long does it take for human feces in a cathole to break down into soil?

Question:

How long does it take for human feces in a cathole to break down into soil?

Submitted by - Donald, Garland, TX

Answer:

Short answer: a long, long time. Just like a compost heap, when you have moisture and warmth, the process takes less time. Out there in the wilds, you have a great variety of moisture levels and temps. Here in Wyoming, where I am, there are low levels of moisture and long winters, so fecal matter can be dug up years later—with lots of nasty pathogens still active. It would be a different story in, say, the swampy land of South Carolina. In the end, it becomes of great importance where we place our excreta. Dig down 6 to 8 inches at least 200 feet from a water source—and hide the spot well.  —Buck

1 Comment

  1. Dick

    I teach and practice carrying a larger plastic bag to carry all my used TP out and burying my poop where it has the best chance of degrading quickly. In the winter with deep snow the burying becomes a problem but finding a clump of trees where no one would be expected to hike through seems more acceptable.

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