None of us like seeing discarded wrappers and plastic bottles in the mountains. Wild and domestic animals may injure themselves on discarded litter. Plus, landowners could choose to restrict access onto private land as a result of littering.
A working party from the John Muir Trust, which owns the summit and much of the land on Ben Nevis, has recently discovered that more than half the rubbish they collected from the mountain was banana skins!
Some climbers and walkers mistakenly believe it is acceptable to throw the skins and other fruit peel on the hill because they are biodegradable. Even under normal conditions, the yellow skins can take two years to decompose. In the cold climate of the mountains we all love, it can take much longer. It is a mistake to think that our fruit peelings are instantly biodegradable.
Any food thrown away in the harsh upland environments of Britain’s mountains and fells can have an adverse effect on the delicate equilibrium of the species that inhabit the high grounds.
Cigarette butts are also unsightly and are not biodegradable as the filters are made of a type of plastic. Many of the moorland fires we experience each year which devastate hectares of blanket bog are also caused by discarded cigarettes. If you are a smoker, avoid cigarettes littering our mountains and take a cigarette pouch with you (some county councils offer these free of charge) or take an empty film canister with you to dispose of the butts.
What to do:
- Take all of your litter home with you – if you’ve carried it in, you can carry it out.
- Where it is safe and not too unpleasant, pick up other people’s litter (especially non-biodegradable material).
- Organic litter such as fruit peel takes longer to break down than most people think. It also attracts certain predator species, so take it home.
- Reduce the litter you need to carry out with you by re-packaging your food before you set out.
Rob the Rubbish is the name affectionately given to retired social worker Robin Kevan in his home town of Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, for his efforts in voluntarily clearing litter from the hills. Rob has been doing this for some time after litter began to impact on his life and he has provided the inspiration to clean up Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike. In 2006 the Access and Conservation Trust (ACT) helped fund Rob to go to Everest and remove and dispose of much of the accumulated rubbish from the walk-in to Everest.
If you are fed up with the litter at your local crag or along your favourite mountain route then why not discuss your idea with your local Access Representative. You can then download an ACT application form to help fund a litter pick or similar environmental project. It is that simple!
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