Hiking has environmental impacts, but everyone can easily reduce them. Dropping cigarette butts on the ground might seem like nothing, but cigarette butts are basically problem waste and can pose a microplastics problem. Regardless, cigarette butts decompose poorly, taking even more than ten years to fully decompose. A pea soup can may take a couple of hundred years to decompose, while a drink can and plastic will hold out for up to a thousand years. Other hikers and Mother Nature will appreciate it if you take your waste out of the wilderness to proper waste collection points and help keep the landscape pristine for those who come after you!
The principle of litter-free hiking is simple: hikers should leave no traces of their visits to the natural environment. Biodegradable waste should be placed in a toilet or composter, and small amounts of clean paper and cardboard can be used as kindling in a campfire. Carry all other types of waste away in your rucksack.
You can begin litter-free hiking when buying supplies or, at the latest, when packing the food you plan to take with you. You should favour ecological packaging and pack your food in reusable boxes.
Remember to pack a plastic bag for waste. As the packages empty, your rucksack will become lighter on the way! For instance, a full can of pea soup weighs more than 500g, but an empty one weighs the same as a sturdy envelope. A full bag of dried hiking food weighs 150g and an empty bag just a few grammes.
Small Deeds Make a Major Difference
Litter-free hiking benefits the natural environment and hikers alike: less waste is taken from hiking destinations to landfills, despite the fact that national parks and other destinations are attracting increasing numbers of visitors.
Hiking without litter reduces the need for maintenance transports to hiking destinations, thus reducing noise, emissions and erosion. It also saves money and working hours that could be targeted at improving hiking routes and other services intended for the benefit of hikers.
Principles of Litter-free Hiking
- Pack your food in durable, reusable boxes and bags in order to reduce the amount of packaging waste you take with you into the wild.
- Place food scraps and other biowaste in a dry toilet or composter at the campfire site.
- Small amounts of clean paper and cardboard can be burned in a campfire or a fireplace in an open wilderness hut. Do not burn other waste, such as packaging that contains aluminium foil or plastic, on a campfire since it may leave a non-biodegradable residue or emit toxic fumes.
- Do not leave combustible waste in places such as firewood sheds, for others to take care of.
- Take all hazardous and mixed waste with you when you leave the wilderness.
- A mixed waste bin is not the place for biowaste, because it will soon start to smell. In addition, animals may spread litter around when attracted to waste containers by biowaste.
- Hazardous waste such as batteries must be disposed of appropriately, not placed in a mixed waste container.
- Clean up your waste, and even that of others if necessary.
- Polite smokers collect butts into a box and empty them later into a waste container.