News & Updates

Top 5 Reasons to Re-Think Burning Trash or Food

Leave No Trace - October 7, 2016

San Antonio, TX – Burning trash or food in your campfire has negative consequences for the health of humans, animals, and plants alike. Unfortunately, we encounter burned trash in campfire pits all too often. Cigarette butts, plastic cups, foil, cans, and food scraps start the long list of trash we commonly find. Many folks don't burn their trash with malicious intent, but rather from lack of knowledge about the consequences of these actions. It's up to all of us to teach campers whenever possible to pack out all food scraps and trash, rather than burning them. Watch the video below for the top five reasons to re-think burning trash or food. Keep scrolling to read more in depth about each reason. 


1) You Breathe In What You Burn

Burning trash produces air pollution with toxic chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. Chemicals like benzene, styrene, toluene, furan, and many others are released by burning trash and can be easily inhaled by those around the campfire. Be kind to your campfire friends by choosing to pack out your trash instead of burning it.

2) Heavy Metal, But Not the Music Kind

Several heavy metals that are known to be harmful to humans and animals alike are found in the ash of campfires that have burned garbage. Heavy metals like cadmium, lead, mercury, and beryllium are also known to be carcinogens for humans and animals, and can expose future campers to these metals as well. 

3) Lead Left Behind

Single-use plastics, packaging, and snack wrappers produced levels of lead left behind in campfire ash that was ten times higher than that of a wood-burning fire. Lead is toxic to humans and animals alike, and may cause problems in our kidneys and lungs. 

4) Fire Pit Scavengers

Burning trash or food in your campfire ring can attract animals to your campsite. This increases potentially dangerous human-wildlife interactions and also puts animals at risk of ingesting the toxic chemicals and metals left behind in campfire rings that burn trash and food. 

5) Bummed-Out Future Campers

Scraps of burned food and trash are unsightly for future visitors and can quickly ruin their experience outdoors. Bits of burned trash may also encourage other campers to burn their trash as well. 

Keep Campfires Clean

Practice Leave No Trace by packing out all trash and food scraps. This includes fruit cores and peels, paper towels, cardboard, and any other materials or foods that you brought with you. Everything should be packed out and disposed of properly at the completion of your trip. 

Source: Davies, Mary. 2004. What’s burning in your campfire? Garbage in, toxics out. USDA Forest Service, Technology & Development Program, Rpt. 0423-2327-MTDC, Missoula, MT.


Enjoy Your World, 

Donielle and Aaron – Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team West Central

Leave No Trace’s Donielle Stevens and Aaron Hussmann are part of the 2016 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, Fjall Raven, ENO, Deuter, Thule, Taxa Outdoors and SmartWool.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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