What do the woods, the shore and the side of the highway have in common?
Trash. A completely unnecessary and absolutely ridiculous amount of trash.
Mixed in with the beauty of the outdoors, litter is an unfortunate sight that can overshadow your time outside. Perhaps you stare at it intently, with a little sadness, but ultimately - it can be an easier to choice to ignore it and carry on. However, we’d like to offer up some reasons to pick up the garbage and why it is one of the best ways to prevent future trail trash. We all know we shouldn’t litter - but sadly, it still happens. So please read through, share with your friends and visit our Facebook and Instagram page to share other ideas. Together, let’s eliminate trash from our rivers and trails.
Trail Trash is More than an Eyesore
In addition to being unsightly, litter is a problem regardless of the location. It is a hazard to wildlife and the surrounding environment. Sometimes garbage left behind can be excused as an accident - such as a plastic bag caught in the wind. Other times, it is left with intent, such as dumping old appliances or mattresses in the woods that would otherwise cost money to dispose of properly. While we aren’t going to get into the socio economic issues that contribute to these motivations, we acknowledge how complicated those situations can be. No matter the reason, the reality is people leave a lot of garbage where garbage simply doesn’t belong. Consequently, litter attracts litter.
On the flipside, when an area is clean and trash-free, it is less likely for garbage to be left behind. The story behind Split Rock Trail embodies this and is proof of how it works. Now that we understand why we shouldn’t litter - let’s look at some specific types of garbage we can remove from the water and forest.
Let's Work Together to Clean The Trails
Problem: Disposable Coffee Cup
A peculiar phenomenon that we can’t seem to shake is the amount of coffee cups that don't make it to the garbage bin. We can’t be the only ones to have noticed this.
Solution: The best solution we can offer is a preventative one: Travel Mugs. Fortunately, many coffee shops are allowing customers to use their own mugs, as well as implementing practices such as a borrowing system so we can hopefully eliminate this litter. In the meantime, carrying out disposable cups found in the wild is a simple and great step forward.
Problem: Dog Poop Bags
There is a misconception that ‘green’ poop bags are biodegradable and can be discarded in the woods but that is false. Biodegradable poop bags do exist, but these still need to end up in an industrial composting facility in order to break down properly. Poop bags are notoriously left on the side of the trail with best intentions of picking it up on the way out - yet they are often forgotten. This article sums up our feelings very well.
Solution: Essentially, the best solution to dog poop isn’t always to bag it. Depending on the situation and location, you can either flick it off the trail to bury it - or pick it up and carry it out in a bag. If you'd like to avoid disposable, single-use bags, you could dedicate an easy to clean bag as your reusable poop bag. Needless to say, there are options.
Problem: Bottles and Cans
The magic of consuming any type of drink during an outing is you are also reducing your pack weight so they are easy to carry out. Plus, bottles and cans are redeemable so it’s trash that actually pays you for carrying it out. Truly, it’s a win-win.
Solution: Carry them out, give them a rinse and then take it to your local recycling depot for a refund - or donate to a community fundraiser. If you are local to the Kennebecasis Valley, the KV Old Boys can collect and donate them as well.
Problem: Food Waste
Food waste is not usually what comes to mind when you think of litter, and it’s certainly not the worst offender - however, it is still problematic. It takes much longer for an apple core or banana peel to break down than you might expect. Another argument in support of tossing your food is that it may feed a hungry animal however, many foods we throw away can do more harm than good as they are not natural foods to the animals. On top of the threat it poses to wildlife, it consequently creates a danger for humans. Whether the food is healthy for an animal or not, the scent attracts animals and brings them dangerously close to humans on a trail or the side of the road.
Solution: Tuck it away and dispose of it in a compost bin or home compost bucket.
Prior to 2020, there was an exciting vibe that we were moving towards low-waste and eco-friendly initiatives. When the pandemic hit, we morphed back towards a single-use, throw away society. Today, we see disposable and cloth masks strewn over the ground. Regardless of the state of the pandemic and how things evolve, one thing is certain: masks don’t belong on the ground.
Solution: For sanitary reasons, when you come across a trampled mask, wear gloves and dispose of it in the trash.
For all the River & Trail Trash
Keeping a bag on you to pick up garbage you come across is a great habit to get into. Alternatively, it’s often easy to find a bag, or something that can be used as a carrying device, on the trail. Of course, use gloves and sanitizer, and practice common sense when cleaning up garbage to keep yourself safe. It’s up to all of us to maintain our trails and waterways. The cleaner we keep them, the more everyone will respect them - which can ultimately and optimistically lead to trash-free environments.
Carry it out. Clean it up. Dispose of it properly. Be a trash hero, not a trash hole.