Litter and Garbage
Your litter and garbage should be kept in a plastic litter bag. This is normally hung from a Philadelphia Travel Guide tree branch at night along with the food, and carried out at the end of your trip. In some parks it’s considered acceptable to toss leftover food in the woods, especially at lower elevations and in regions where organic matter will break down quickly. This is forbidden in other areas, and garbage must be carried out. When in doubt, check with park authorities for local regulations as well as recommendations.
If you do leave food scraps, make sure they don’t end up on a potential tentsite, in a place where someone may walk, or in any spot where they would create an eyesore for passersby. Never leave leftovers near water, as the scraps could wash down into it in the event of rain. Food which ends up in water will rot and increase bacterial count, helping to pollute the supply. Pots or dishes which have been used for food should never be rinsed in the water supply, no matter how large the lake or stream.
Use great care to avoid leaving litter anywhere. If you’re a smoker, butts should not be buried or left behind. Sadly, it’s still not unusual to see smokers tossing cigarette butts, sometimes still lit, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. This is especially irresponsible in the wilderness. Always extinguish butts completely and carry them out like other litter. Picking up refuse left by previous campers is also extremely helpful. Those who haven’t much conscience about littering are less likely to toss their trash if an area is completely clean.
Some people believe it’s acceptable to burn litter in a campfire. Only paper, however, should go into a fire. All other materials must be carried out, as they won’t burn completely, may create toxic fumes, and will leave a residue or substance that doesn’t belong in the wilderness. Examples are all forms of plastic, foil-lined and plastic-coated paper, and foil packages.
Your trash weighs infinitely less than the original load of food, so there’s absolutely no reasonable excuse for being unwilling to carry it out. Granted that organic garbage may start to smell after a few days, but if you have it properly packed and tightly sealed in double plastic bags, this won’t be a problem.
Not infrequently one discovers a large bag full of garbage at a lean-to or campsite, as if it was left for a trash pick-up. Surely just about everyone knows that there are no such pick-ups in the wilderness. This kind of inconsiderate behavior means that someone else is stuck with carrying it out.
Before that can happen, however, animals are likely to tear a garbage bag apart in search of food, often scattering the trash around and making a real mess. There’s only one place where you should ever desposit litter and garbage on a trip: in a garbage can or receptacle, which is most likely to be found in a parking area or along a highway. If you don’t come across a place to deposit your trash on the way out, dispose of it at home.
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