Skills & Techniques

Our 5 Most Common Litter Sightings

Brice - July 13, 2018
Elkhart, IN: Living on the road and traveling campground to campground, we unfortunately see a great deal of litter. Whether we are in the mountains of New Hampshire or the beaches of North Carolina, there are a few types of trash we always find. Can you guess what the five most common types of trash we see are?
1. Orange Peels
Orange peels can take as long as two years to decompose. There is a common misconception that “natural trash” such as orange peels, banana peels, apple cores, and shells from nuts and seeds are okay to leave behind on the trail, in campgrounds, or in other outdoor spaces. While these things are natural, they are not natural to the places they are being left. These types of trash attract wildlife to areas with human activity, affecting their health and habits. 
2. Bottle Caps
We have found caps from either glass or plastic bottles in every campground we’ve been in. These are small and easy to lose track of, but that is no excuse for leaving them behind as litter. When using plastic or glass bottles, be mindful of the cap and make sure you have it before tossing out the bottle. Do a Leave No Trace check of your campsite before leaving to pick up any you may have missed. 
3. Aluminum Cans (Particularly in Fire Pits)
Campfires are generally not hot enough to actually break aluminum cans and other types of trash down, and so they end up remaining as litter for the next camper. This trash then attracts wildlife to campsites as they can still have smells and residue on them. Even if they did burn completely, they release chemicals into the air such as styrene, xylene, and benzene, all suspected carcinogens, as they burn. Who wants to breath that?
4. Balloons 
Balloon releases are a common form of celebration, but these balloons don’t float out to into space. Instead, they come back down to earth and end up as litter somewhere else. We find them on beaches, tangled in trees, even in pristine wilderness areas. Our suggestion? Another form of celebration. Maybe a nice hike?
5. Plastic Straws
Plastic straws have been in the spotlight recently, and for good reason. They are a common litter item and often in end up in our oceans. Actually, plastic straws were ranked the seventh most common type of trash picked up by Ocean Conservancy volunteers. While some companies are now looking into either full or partial bans, you can always take it upon yourself to start going straw free. Or take it a step further and go completely disposable cup free and bring your own reusable cup. 
The trend to all of these most common types of litter? They are all preventable impacts that we can stop from happening by making a few simple changes in our lives. Lets all spread this Leave No Trace knowledge to others and change these items from the most common types of litter to the least. 
Leave No Trace's Erin Collier and Brice Esplin are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Taxa and Klean Kanteen.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

Get the latest in Leave No Trace eNews in your inbox so you can stay informed and involved.