MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Is it okay to leave a banana peal behind while hiking?

Date: Mon May 4 14:08:25 1998
Posted By: Eli Hestermann, Grad student Biological Oceanography. Woods Hole
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 894229409.Es

There are really two points here:
1)Do banana peels degrade in a reasonable amount of time?
2)Even if they do, should they be left on the trail?

The answer to the first question is a resounding YES.  Banana peels do 
degrade and like many food wastes are excellent candidates for a home 
compost pile, especially one that invites worms in to help with the 
degradation process.  

The answer to the second is a bit more difficult.  Banana peels degrade, 
but it does take a few weeks or months, depending on the environment.  In 
the interim they are unsightly for other hikers.  Furthermore, and more 
importantly, you are adding a source of organic nutrients to the 
environment that wasn't originally there.  You have disturbed the 
preexisting environment, even if only in a small way.  It may not seem like 
much, but several such disturbances over time can ruin the natural beauty 
that leads people to hike in such places to begin with.  For these reasons, 
I would have to say that you're better off taking that banana peel out with 
you.  For more information about these issues, you might check out the web 
site of the organization Leave No Trace.

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