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How much fluid can a WAG bag absorb?

WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bags contain polymer and enzyme gel that absorbs fluid. This reaction makes the waste inert and safe to dispose in a trash can. In this experiment we tested out the maximum amount of fluid a WAG bag could absorb. This is not the amount of waste that can be added to the WAG bag. It is important not to overload a WAG bag with waste.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       7/1/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
7/1/2021
the toilet to go in grass with a ruler next to it measuring how long it is in length

RESTOP2 Toilet-To-Go

Polymer and enzyme gel: 24 grams

Toilet Paper: 9 grams

Hand Sanitation Wipe: 3 grams

Sealable Bag: 44 grams

Total Weight without the waste: 80 grams

The inside of the wag bag showing the absorbent gel

View of the Polymer and Enzyme Gel

The polymer and enzyme gel is located at the bottom of the WAG bag. In this WAG bag we measured 24 grams of polymer and enzyme gel.

the gel being weighed onto a scale

1 Gram of Polymer and Enzyme Gel

We weighed out exactly one gram of polymer and enzyme gel.

the gel being poured into a ziploc baggie

Added 1 Gram of Polymer and Enzyme Gel to sealable bag

We added one gram of polymer and enzyme gel to a large sealable bag.

the water being poured into the ziplock baggie with the gel inside

Added yellow dyed water to polymer and enzyme gel

Slowly added yellow dyed water to the polymer and enzyme gel and agitated the bag until the water was not absorbed.

the gel in a ziplock baggie being weighed

The 1 Gram of Polymer and Enzyme Gel absorbed 0.163 liters of water!

The 1 gram of polymer and enzyme gel was able to absorb 0.163 liters (163 grams) of yellow dyed water! The total weight of the water and gel mixture weighed 164 grams (the plastic bag was subtracted out using the scale).

gel being weighed ousted of the ziploc baggie

The yellow dyed water and gel formed a spongy mixture

The yellow dyed water and gel formed a spongy mixture as shown in the picture. Not all of the mixture could fit on the scale at one time. 1 gram of polymer and enzyme gel was able to absorb much more water than expected.  

a water bottle with fake urine showing how much water the baggie absorbed

One WAG bag can absorb a maximum of 3.9 liters of water!

About 0.163 liters of yellow dyed water shown on the left was absorbed by just one gram of polymer and enzyme gel. This means that the 24 grams of polymer and enzyme gel in the WAG bag can absorb a maximum of 3.9 liters (24 x 0.163 liters) of water! However, adding 3.9 liters of liquid waste to a WAG bag is not recommended. This is because the enzyme gel has to react and neutralize the waste. Having too much liquid would reduce the effectiveness of the enzyme.

Summary

WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bags are extremely effective in neutralizing waste if used correctly.  In this experiment we showed how a WAG bag can absorb a lot of water. However, this does not mean you should overload a bag with waste.

It’s important to use the WAG bag as designed. Overloading the WAG bag with waste will make the enzyme gel ineffective in neutralizing the waste.


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About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.