Whether in your home or out camping in nature, it's important to realise that what you do with your garbage matters.
|Fruit and vegetables are great compost. They will decompose a few days after you leave and there is no risk of damaging the environment. However, do make sure you bury or compost your fruit and vegetable waste as this will help it break down faster.
Fruit and vegetable waste also attracts bugs and may cause wildlife to change their behaviour - they can become dependent on human food sources and lose their ability to survive in the wild.
However, most human rubbish these days consists of very little organic material. Plastics, polymers, glass, tin, paper and other manmade materials contains ingredients which the soil cannot absorb.
In order to be more specific, we invite you to look at the statistics (sourced from the New Hampshire Department of the Environmental Services and Waste in Europe and the Pocket Guide to Marine Debris, The Ocean Conservancy, 2004.
These will give you an approximate idea of the period of time necessary for some of the most common types of human garbage to decompose.
An orange peel - 6 months to 2 years
A napkin - 3 months
A newspaper - 3-12 months
Matches - 6 months
A lighter - 100-200 years
A cigarette butt - 1-12 years (and that's not taking into account the leaching of chemicals into the enivronment)
A wad of gum - 5 years
A can of beer - 80-200 years
Tin can - 50 years
Fishing line - 600 years
Waxed milk cargon- 3 months
Plastic Packaging - 100-1000 years
A plastic bag - 20-100 years
A plastic card - 1000 years
A plastic bottle - 150 - 500 years
Glass - 1 million years
Disposable diapers - 500 years
A rubber sole - 50-80 years
This compared with an orange or banana peel which arguably takes the longest in the fruit and vegetable kingdom to biodegrade - in only 2-4 weeks!
Of course, statistics for some of these items are educated guesswork by scientists. Plastic has only been around for around 50 years, so there's no firsthand evidence of their decomposition rate.
However there are a number of ways in which scientists reach these estimates, if you're interested read the Explainer article. There are also different rates of decomposition based on various factors, including temperature, oxygen and presence of water, while materials degrade differently in the ocean.
In fact, Ohio State University has shown that adding water to waste sites increases their rate of decomposition.
But no matter what way you look at it, the statistics are shocking. In most cases our garbage actually lives longer than us, and is that the legacy you want to leave? That's why we have to be more responsible - commit to keeping nature pristine and to preserving our natural resources.
It is very easy to spend a gorgeous weekend in the wilderness and then turn your back on all the mess you've left behind. But imagine for a second that 5, 10, or even 100 other people visit the same place during that summer, and do exactly the same. Would you like to spend your next vacation there?
Visit How to make Compost to find out about what to do with organic waste.
Or check out Biodegradable Plastic Packaging to find out whether this is a possible solution.
Connie Jameson is passionate blogger and nature lover. She loves everything to be clean, whether her home or the environment and runs an eco-friendly cleaning company in Lewisham.
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