Jeremy Ashcroft

Trail (UK) - - Skills -

Will fruit waste (ap­ple cores, ba­nana skins) biode­grade on the hill? Ryan Thompson, Cam­bridge

Trail’s moun­taineer­ing ed­i­tor is also au­thor of Bri­tain’s High­est Moun­tain Walks (Harper Collins). He knows the UK hills bet­ter than his own re­flec­tion.

Even­tu­ally fruit waste will break down and biode­grade, but with the lower av­er­age tem­per­a­tures ex­pe­ri­enced on our hills, moun­tains and moors the process involved is slower and takes longer – much longer than most peo­ple re­alise. Ba­nana skins, for ex­am­ple, can take up to two years to break down at sea-level. But up high, on the sum­mits, you can add months and years to this time. A re­cent sur­vey, by the John Muir Trust, on Ben Nevis counted and re­moved over 1,000 ba­nana skins in one go! And it’s not just the yel­low per­ils that linger longer than we think. Orange peel, ap­ple cores, pa­per, and cig­a­rette butts all take a long time to biode­grade. One par­tic­u­lar of­fender is chew­ing gum – some brands that con­tain elas­tomers and plas­ti­cis­ers never ac­tu­ally break down and in the­ory can last for­ever.

Vis­ual degra­da­tion is the most ob­vi­ous neg­a­tive im­pact of this lit­ter, but it’s not the only is­sue. Food waste will at­tract scav­eng­ing an­i­mals, some of which are not nor­mally res­i­dent species. Also, when the ma­te­rial does even­tu­ally break down the de­posits left tend to en­rich and al­ter the ex­ist­ing soil. These two factors can up­set the del­i­cate equi­lib­rium of the spe­cial flora and fauna that in­habit our favourite high places. It might seem a bit manky putting food waste in your ruck­sack and haul­ing it back out again at the end of your trip, but it’s the right thing to do. An easy-to-reach stuff­sack, kept for car­ry­ing the waste, weighs noth­ing and can be emp­tied and cleaned eas­ily on your re­turn home.

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