Grey Water Disposal

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What do you do to dispose of your grey water at your (semi) permanent camps? And wild camps?

Collect it and then pack out at the end of the stay?

Or dig a soak-away?

An old Scout manual of mine suggests the latter, using fine twigs and grass to filter out the bits; then burning the "filter" periodically. But maybe things have moved on a bit since then! Concern about adding chemicals (soap, etc.) to the soil and vegetation; Leave No Trace, etc.

What do y'all do?
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
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Florida
I’m with Billy-O. You might be able to pack it out on a small scale but for an extended camp or hike you cross a point of diminishing returns. The trend I see here (like Billy said) is using more environmentally friendly chemicals to begin with. To be honest I never carried any chemical cleaners as a teenager. I just used handfuls od sand to clean my mess kit and my hands.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,438
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McBride, BC
As a family, we did a lot of "boat camping". Load the boat, maybe 5-10 miles across the water to a wilderness campground and pitch our nest. If it wasn't in the boat, do without.
Paper plates and paper cups > camp fire.
Cutlery got washed, the water went into what you call a soak-away pit.
Biodegradable detergents were just coming out and Mom was really quick to switch.
 
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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
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Mid Wales
We use bio-degradable in our camp in the wood and a soakaway but, because we don't want any food matter going into the soakaway at all, we use a plastic garden sieve and just knock the caught matter onto the fire every now and then. The other advantage is it's bright so everyone can see where it is - not ideal aesthetically but a good compromise.
 
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slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,097
155
Devon
What's a bio-degradable soap? I suspect we use them here as we use natural soap and simple eco washing stuff.

I would say it depends on location. I can't see much of a problem pouring the water into a soakaway in the UK. After all in many places farmers spread lorry loads of human waste over the fields and when it rains heavily many household septic tanks overflow into the streams etc, etc.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,423
2,611
Mid Wales
What's a bio-degradable soap? I suspect we use them here as we use natural soap and simple eco washing stuff.

I would say it depends on location. I can't see much of a problem pouring the water into a soakaway in the UK. After all in many places farmers spread lorry loads of human waste over the fields and when it rains heavily many household septic tanks overflow into the streams etc, etc.
For example:


However, it is often hard to determine the exact nature of the stuff and if it really is any better for the environment.
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
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Biodegradable. Life on earth has functioned quite well using
long straight chains of carbon atoms in biomolecules (fatty acids in lipids for example = olive oil.)
Usually 2 carbons at a time, those molecules can be built and they can be taken apart.

Organic chemistry shows that detergents are most effective if the long chains are in fact branched and quite bushy.
OK, down the drain. Bacterial and fungal decomposition can chew off the carbon atoms until they get to a branch point.
They can't cope (no enzymes) to take branch points apart.
You're screwed = the detergent action persists in the environment. Killing fish gills for example.

Biodegradable detergents have very few branch points. As expected, they don't work as well as the old stuff did.
 
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slowworm

Native
May 8, 2008
1,097
155
Devon
So is there a simple way to know if something is biodegradable? We tend to use eco, non-bio detergents for washing up and clothes washing for example and a quick look at the label just says "plant based". I expect they are biodegradable even if not labelled as such.
 
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Bishop

Full Member
Jan 25, 2014
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Cabin Fever Central
Splitting semantic hairs all soap is biodegradable given long enough what makes the eco-friendly difference is the plethora of non-naturally occurring additives that some brands contain. These are just some of the detergent/cleansing agents, colour and smell is whole other list of strange chemical brews.

Stearic Acid
Sodium Tallowate
Lauric Acid
Sodium isethionate
Cocamidoppropyl Betaine
Titanium Dioxide

Soap in its basic form only has three ingrediants. Lye, water and fat (animal or vegetable) that's it. Everything else is marketing fluff.
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,438
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McBride, BC
Soaps and detergents are very, very different chemistries. No semantics needed.

They are not all ultimately biodegradable. Some detergents persist like plastic.
Doing who the hell knows what damage in aquatic ecosystems for ages
until they are finally(?)bound up with dirt as an inert lump.

Here, there is a measure of truth in advertising which is required by law.
I can grow bacteria in the exhaust from my dishwasher. Very tasty detergent.
Every 3 months, I toss in a disinfectant "pill" and do an empty run to clean house.
 
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