Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: Cleanwaste Portable Toilet

Cleanwaste Portable Toilet

Because I own a tiny trailer, I don't have a built-in toilet inside. This isn't a problem for most of the camping trips my wife and I take because in the Midwest, almost all camping takes place in established campgrounds with either flush or pit toilets. In addition to the lack of much wild country for boondocking, my wife also works online when we camp, so we need electricity and cellphone in order to camp for more than a weekend. This means most of our camping is in more "civilized" campgrounds that have the flush toilet/shower facilities.

However, this year I've been cold-weather camping in the off season and enjoying it a lot. However, in Iowa during the off season, the state parks close the shower/toilet facilities because the pipes would freeze in the low temperatures. The state parks have at least one pit toilet, but these can be a distance away, and, of course, lack the accustomed simplicity of flushing. My first portable toilet purchase was the Camco 41535 Travel Toilet (2.6 Gallon), for for the wife, grandkids, and me for peeing at night. It's familiar in function to what we have at home, and is cleaned with a trip to the dump station as a part of camp breakdown.

The portable flush isn't functional when the temperatures are cold enough to freeze water, though. After researching, I finally chose the Cleanwaste Portable Toilet, a folding, bagged unit on three legs, and have found after a full season of use that it doesn't take up much space and is pretty useful in a variety of situations. Let me explain that last statement.

Traveling over the summer on a longer road trip, I found myself sometimes in a situation where there either wasn't a facility available, or I just didn't want to use the available facility. This didn't happen often, but when it did, the Cleanwaste was the alternative. During the cold weather, I use the chemical or pit toilets, but sometimes I just don't feel like taking that walk or dropping my drawers in the cold. Spoiled me! I readily acknowledge that sometimes I just don't want the hassle. The Cleanwaste unit has provided an efficient system I can use inside my camper.

Let me state for the record that my RTTC Polar Bear "standy" has a floorplan that allows for the portable toilet to be set up inside. (Such toilets can be used in all RTTC models. It's just a matter of how much headspace you have when sitting on the head!) When camping alone, this season I've used the inside-the-camper option, turning on the ceiling vent fan, cracking a window, and lighting a half stick of incense in that small space. It works. When with my wife, I set up a ulilitent outside, which we use in the summer with the Camco unit, for the Cleanwaste system. The tiny trailer is just too small for us two to negotiate the whole rigamarole inside--which would include one of us taking a walk while the other turned our "bedroom on wheels" into a "bathroom on wheels.

The unit, folded up, is about the size of a large briefcase, 19 x 4 x 15 inches, weighing 7 pounds. It unfolds easily and has a net bag to hold the plastic waste management bags. The "Go Anywhere" bag kits cost around 2-3 dollars a kit, depending on where you purchase them. I've found that setting up the legs is easier than folding them down, although I'm getting much better at the put-away steps with practice. The unit is plastic, and the legs lock in by slipping behind plastic catches with a "click" sound. That plastic tab has to be pushed back to fold the legs down, and it's not completely easy. I've found with practice that for the outer legs rocking the legs back in the opposite direction of the fold-down helps ease the pressure on the plastic, and on the middle leg rocking and releasing the catches from side to side helps. But it takes practice and patience. The company's set-up video is below.

My first big beef with the system was the bag kits--expensive and also a lot of plastic that's tossed into landfills. I searched for less expensive and more environmental-friendly option, and this is what I use now. Green Paper Products sells a compostable bio-resin bag. I purchased the 20 x 22 inch bags, 75 for $27.71, or about 37 cents per bag, more expensive than regular plastic, but I'm trying to cut back on one-use plastic. I use one or two of the bags, depending on if I have any plastic shopping bags given to me (without holes) by my daughter for the outer bag. It's a double bag system: one outer failsafe bag and one inner container bag. For the inside bag I dump a couple of handfuls of cat litter and a couple handfuls of pet litter wood shavings. This all comes to no more than one third to half the price of the Go Anywhere kits.

With the waste bags all and secure, I treat disposal just as parents with kids in diapers treat their changings--in the dumpster. At least I know I'm moving in the direction of biodegradable, and "a shovel and a roll of toilet paper" isn't an option in areas that don't have that boondocking space, or in some delicate and highly used environments, such as with river-rafting expeditions. The small, frequently used coves of river-rafting just can't survive the shovel-and-bury strategy.

Inevitably, this review has to address the question of whether to use the bagged waste system, such as the Cleanwaste Go Anywhere, or to use a water flush system, such as the Camco Travel Toilet. Which system to use is personal choice. Ecologically, I feel that campgrounds have waste treatment systems already in place, and a portable flush toilet only adds a small amount to that system. Both the Go Anywhere and the Camco Portable Toilet are fairly substantial hunks of plastic. Using the Go Anywhere means adding to landfills, even if, as with me, bags and additives are compostable. I'll continue to use the Cleanwaste bagged system for cold-weather camping and short-stay road trips, but for longer stays in one spot, to me it seems the portable flush toilet is more environment friendly since campgrounds already have dump stations (and especially since I've already bought the unit).

During this cold weather, though, I'll bring the bagged system and also utilize the established campground pit toilets as often as possible--not such a big deal in cold weather when smells, insects, and campers are at a minimum. The pit toilets, after all, are also part of the overall waste management systems that are already established. Sometimes, though, if I feel roughing it is going to rough me up, then I use my portable toilet. My wife also says she prefers the bagging system clean-up to the portable water toilet that requires going to the dumping station. The Cleanwaste with our adaptations is a bagged system that works for my wife and me, especially during the cold weather. Other systems are available, and I've written about them below in other articles.

Other articles I've written on portable toilets and tiny trailers: 
(Note: A lively discussion on tiny trailer and camping social media sites brought up some interesting information. Modern landfills are required by the EPA to block out air, moisture, and sunlight. That means that even with certified compostable bags, modern landfills are not an environment conducive to composting. As my wife said, "What's the answer, then?" There are two problems: camping waste management and our civilization's excessive waste and landfill issues. My wife and I decided that we just have to do the best we can. We utilize existing facilities as much as possible. We use the water-flushing portable toilet when necessary, mostly for nighttime trips, and that waste can be added to the campground's or our home's existing waste management system. When we use the bagged system--which we don't use a lot--we use compostable materials. And we can inform ourselves with research and intelligently discuss these issues. Source: "5 Surprising Secrets of Biodegradable Bags.")

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