Dispose of Waste Properly
How Long Will It Last?
The trash we leave behind may take months, years, or centuries to break apart. By packing everything out we keep our garbage out of the wild places.
Participants will realize how long small amounts of trash will remain and how many small amounts accumulate.
10 minutes for session.
- identify relative lifespans of different kinds of trash
- understand the need to dispose of all trash appropriately
Materials - for each group
- Plastic zip-loc bag
- paper napkin
- unused cigarette butt
- patch of cotton cloth
- patch of leather
- wool glove or patch of wool material
- top of tin can, such as tomato paste can
- crushed aluminum soda can
- section of plastic 6-pack soda can ring
- glass marble
- Sitting at a campsite and noticing pop can fliptops, screwtops, cigarette butts, bits of plastic, ... in the dirt detracts from the experience.
- Understanding the long-term impact from garbage helps us realize the need to pack it out.
- Hand out the zip-loc bag full of items to each group.
- Ask them to arrange all the items by how long they think the item will take to 'degrade' in the wild. Degrade means to break down and disintegrate into the dirt.
- Ask a group which item they have listed first. Ask if any other groups disagree and why. Ask how long people think that item will last. Use the list below as an estimate for each item.
- Go through each item, asking different groups. Make sure they include the zip-loc bag in their list.
- 2 months - banana peel or other organic matter
- 6 months - paper napkin
- 8 months - patch of cotton cloth
- 1 year - wool glove or patch of wool material
- 4 years - cigarette butt
- 20 years - Plastic zip-loc bag
- 40 years - leather
- 100 years - top of tin can, such as tomato paste can
- 300 years - crushed aluminum soda can
- 500 years - section of plastic 6-pack soda can ring
- forever - glass marble, at least 1,000,000 years
- How many backpacking groups camp at a site on a popular trail each summer? Let's say 3 per week for 10 weeks. If each one dropped just one small piece of plastic trash, that would be quite a mess each year.
- Whose experience do we impact when we pick up the flip top of a soda can from the dirt at a campsite? our own, the next group, and maybe even our great-great-grandchildren 100 years from now.
- What do you do with the trash when you reach civilization? (recycle as much as possible)