Pack it in, pack it out

Summer is the peak time for hiking all across the country. Not co­incidentally it also is the peak time for littering along trails.

Hiking has always been a popular pastime in a country rich with majestic forests, breathtaking views and well-maintained trails to suit just about any taste and fitness level.

But in recent years use of them has soared for a number of reasons, including publicity given to some trails, most notably the iconic long distance trails that was featured in popular books and movies; increased population; increased tourism and promotion of local hiking trails by communities eager to encourage visitors to linger longer.

Along with increased use has come increased litter: food wrappers; paper and plastic bags; Kleenex, paper towels and even toilet paper; plastic water bottles and food scraps.

Even people who otherwise are conscientious about following the “pack it in, pack it rule” argue that it’s all right to leave apple cores, orange peels, pistachio and peanut shells and other food scraps along hiking trails and at view points. One hiker debating this issue on social media maintained: “If it’s organic, it’s not littering.”

This is not true. Garbage is garbage, whatever form it comes in. If there’s any uncertainty about this, there’s a simple rule of thumb: “If I were at home, would I throw this on my living room floor?” If the answer is no, then it’s garbage.

While it’s true that organic items will eventually decay, there are grave misperceptions about how long this will take. Not only that, fruit waste are simply non-native food supplies for wildlife. In many cases, their digestive systems are not meant to handle an orange peel or nut shell.

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