How Long Does It Take For Paper To Decompose: 5 Reasons to Pack It Out

Why do we need to pack out our toilet paper when we go play outside? Isn’t it biodegradable? Can’t we just put it under a rock, and Mother Nature will take care of the rest?

Unfortunately, this is the all-too-common thought process from climbers, hikers, and outdoor adventurers that’s hurting our wild spaces.

Do i need to pack out my toilet paper 1

Rock climbing, backpacking, and hiking have completely blown up (with a mighty contribution from social media) immensely over the past few years.

People are looking to connect to something wild, something real, something beautiful— as they should for a well balanced and awesome life.

But how is this affecting our wild spaces?

One major difference I’ve seen on the trails and at my local crags compared to nearly 10 years ago when I first started playing outdoors, is the amount of toilet paper found outside.

To ensure long term sustainability for our public lands, packing out all toilet paper is a necessary practice so we can enjoy our wild spaces for generations to come.

Here are 5 reasons to pack out your toilet paper instead of burying it!

Toilet paper takes a long time to decompose.

Ideally, in the most perfect conditions, toilet paper will decompose in 1-3 years.

But in alpine areas, deserts, and wetlands, toilet paper takes a much longer time to break down.

Pack out your toilet paper in the desert

Here’s question for you: have you ever been stoked to finally find the perfect spot for your cathole, just to dig up someone’s old, used toilet paper?

With great regret, I can tell you that I have and it’s not fun.

Related Post: A Mostly Serious Guide for Women on How to Pee In The Wild

Outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly popular.

Within the last few years, outdoor adventure has become exponentially more popular and will only continue to grow.

Seriously, my local crags are poppin’ on the weekend!

Bouldering in bishop
Bouldering in Bishop. Photo courtesy of @faith.d.c

As a result, our pristine wild spaces including trails, state parks, national parks, local crags, and other public lands will be impacted greatly by the influx of people looking to get outside and connect with nature.

Related: #LoveYourCrag: 33 Ways Climbers Can Protect Their Crags and Planet

In reality, there are too many people playing outside and burying their toilet paper for this to be a sustainable outdoor practice.

Not to mention, this way of thinking is outdated and ready for an upgrade.

Related Post: The Climber’s Pact: The 13 Promises Every Awesome Climber Should Make

Leaving behind trash effects wildlife.

Often times, animals will dig up your buried TP.

Leaving behind your TP not only exposes wildlife to bleach and other harmful chemicals, but disease carrying pathogens found in human feces like salmonella and E. coli.

A few weeks ago, I was climbing at a popular climbing crag in Southern California and I saw a squirrel run by with dirty toilet paper in its mouth.

How trash effects wildlife

Honestly, it broke my wilderness loving heart and made it difficult to enjoy the wild beauty of the outdoors knowing the impact my people were having on wild lands and all of its creatures.

Related: What are the Leave No Trace 7 Principles?

“The future of wildlife and the habitat that they depend on is in being destroyed. 
It is time to make nature and all the beauty living within it our priority.”

Paul Oxton

Toilet paper should not be burned.

Have you ever tried burning your TP before?

On my first ever backpacking trip, I tried burning my business paper and let me tell you—it’s messy, takes forever, and extremely frustrating when you can’t get your lighter to work properly in cold and windy weather conditions.

More importantly, it’s a direct threat to creating wildfires.

As a California native and lover, I urge you not to burn your toilet paper.

Burning toilet paper

Give back by packing out what you brought in.

Just like with everything else, pack it in, pack it out baby!

Wild spaces give us so much.

With this in mind, let’s give back to the beautiful outdoors by packing out all of our trash and starting conversations with our friends to do the same.

Related Post: How to Embrace Leave No Trace Principles When You Travel

Pro Tip: Reuse a sealable snack bag that you can’t see through to place your dirty TP in after taking care of business. For example, I’ll use the packaging of a finished bag of hemp seeds or trail mix. It’s safe from touching anything else in your bag and you don’t have to see it.

Pack out your toilet paper in joshua tree

Is packing out your TP convenient? Not in the least.

Is packing out your TP important? Extremely.

Let’s do better, my outdoor friends. I know we can!

Overall, practicing kind and responsible outdoor habits play a huge part in protecting outdoor spaces. 🌻

Pin For Later | 5 Reasons To Pack Out Your Toilet Paper

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