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  1. #1
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    Default Garbage burning at the evening campfire

    Anyone have any reasonable suggestions for discouraging the burning of garbage at the evening campfire??

    I have a tough time, even with campers I know. With campers I donít know, I find it tough to convince them to pack out their garbage rather than burn it.

    Suggestions and/or links are welcome.

    Thanks- 4R

  2. #2
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    What kind of garbage? Plastics and other petroleum based stuff can be a problem as they often don't burn completely, give off noxious fumes, and can leave toxins in ash residue that are different from wood ash toxins. As are things that don't fully burn like foils and such. Yeah, I pack them out. Maybe you could educate people as to the nature of burning different items and what can be left behind. Better yet, educate them on how to bring as little as possible in the way of potential waste in the first place. But as to burning paper or organics (like paper food packaging, or an apple core, or banana peel)? They are little different than firewood chemically, and as long as they burn completely to ash, what's left isn't adding much to the wood ash already there. And realistically, burning firewood itself isn't a clean, eco-friendly endeavor. Many are opposed to campfires altogether for this reason. And they have a valid point. Fire rings and remains of campfires are one of the biggest "traces" we leave behind - we gather up wood, then burn it emitting smoke full of toxins, leaving behind charred earth, and ash which is not only unsightly but also chemically full of toxins. But honestly, I enjoy a campfire. To me, it's part of the outdoor experience.
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 01-12-2019 at 15:44.

  3. #3
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    I've tried to convince people not to burn plastics or their tin cans in the fire. It doesn't work. They just get mad, defensive or don't give a S--t.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Just because you chose to set sail on the Looney toon express, that does not mean we all have to suffer your delusions. Carry your paper to town so they can burn it in the incinerator? HYOH

  5. #5
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I've tried to convince people not to burn plastics or their tin cans in the fire. It doesn't work. They just get mad, defensive or don't give a S--t.
    This is true. Witnessed a guy spill an entire gallon Ziploc of mac and cheese (accidentally) on the fire and about 10 of us finally made him pick it out with sticks. I'd imagine it ended up down the trail somewhere anyway. He did leave the plastic spoon and Ziploc bag on the edge of the fire though but one of the other guys picked it and packed it out. Most don't really care or they'll ask if you're the forest police. But then the same ones will complain when they see cans and trash at trail heads.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  6. #6

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    By the time it's in the fire, it's too late. One second they're chowing on a big foil bag of food, and you're not even thinking anyone would be stupid enough to put it in the fire, then the next second it's in the fire. Someone might say "Why would you do that?!" someone else might ask "going to come back and collect the remnants in the morning?" Then of course they'll say "it will burn cleanly!" even though it's obvious it's a poorly fed damp fire that has no chance of burning it, whereupon they'll dump another armload of damp wood on the fire, and head off to sleep, leaving a half smoldering fire to burn unattended. Whatever the specifics, whatever is said, they will not collect the foil and pack it out the next morning.

  7. #7
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    I was on a group bp trip when one person threw a beverage container in the fire, one which was made of a combo of coated paper product (like old milk cartons, if you recall) and a plastic screw top. I expressed a concern, and was laughed off with the question, "Do you know what plastics are made of? Oil! So all I'm burning is oil, like an oil lamp." Well my organic chemistry knowledge never got off the ground, but I suspected in the back of my mind that he was oversimplifying things, and that the fumes from burning plastic were NOT the same thing as the fumes from lamp oil. Indeed ... "dioxins" was the term I couldn't come up with in the moment. There's probably other nasties too but it always bothered me.

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    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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    Id rather thet burnt it than left it intact.

    Shelter caretakers will burn it...so they pack less out

    But i preach no fires. Short of hypothermia, theres not a single legitimate reason to allow a fire on public land. People destroy millions of acres every year because they are conditioned to want a fire to feel safe outdoors.

    Not to mention homes, and towns, and lives.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 01-12-2019 at 22:01.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Id rather thet burnt it than left it intact.

    Shelter caretakers will burn it...so they pack less out

    But i preach no fires. Short of hypothermia, theres not a single legitimate reason to allow a fire on public land. People destroy millions of acres every year because they are conditioned to want a fire to feel safe outdoors.
    I understand the argument from the point of view of protecting against fires getting out of control. And there are obviously conditions that are reasonable under which to ban fires - drought, wind, sensitive areas, etc. But honestly, I don't think most experienced hikers build fires out of fear of predators or the outdoors (the worst behavior I've seen regarding excessively large or uncontrollable fires tends to be partiers and car campers). I think many hikers like to have fires more for the ambiance and to a lesser extent perhaps warmth and cooking. Whether or not those are legitimate reasons is subject to opinion.

  10. #10
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    I, for one, am not into the shelter scene. Most thru hikers are of the same mindset and terrific people. But there are occasionally those whose perceived "rights" make life difficult for us all and burning garbage is one of the many irritating behaviors I witness. LNT is plain and simple. Pack it in/ pack it out. There is no room to debate organic chemistry here. "It comes from oil and oil comes from the earth." "It is going to be incinerated at the landfill anyway." Those are excuses for people who have no business on the trail.

    If some obnoxious bully tosses garbage into the fire and I am the only one who says something ... that person will try to make it look like I am the problem. But hikers should accept some responsibility beyond their own personal hiking practices. If someone tosses trash in the fire and EVERYONE comes down on them, then it is clear who is the problem.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slumgum View Post
    I, for one, am not into the shelter scene. Most thru hikers are of the same mindset and terrific people. But there are occasionally those whose perceived "rights" make life difficult for us all and burning garbage is one of the many irritating behaviors I witness. LNT is plain and simple. Pack it in/ pack it out. There is no room to debate organic chemistry here. "It comes from oil and oil comes from the earth." "It is going to be incinerated at the landfill anyway." Those are excuses for people who have no business on the trail.

    If some obnoxious bully tosses garbage into the fire and I am the only one who says something ... that person will try to make it look like I am the problem. But hikers should accept some responsibility beyond their own personal hiking practices. If someone tosses trash in the fire and EVERYONE comes down on them, then it is clear who is the problem.

    people in general are lazy and look only to their own self interest, sadly hikers are not immune to this

  12. #12

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    I am in the same camp as Muddy. Unless it is cold and too early to sack out, I find fires to be more trouble than they are worth. I haven't started one in over 5 years. If one is going, I will gather wood and get some fellowship, but I am more of a hiker than a camper.

    While I was in the Sierra this summer, I was amazed at the people that wanted to build camp fires below 10K ft, while thousands of acres were burning just north of us. I think the time is coming when campfires should be curtailed under most conditions.

  13. #13

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    I have no problem with people burning their trash. But they should go through the fire in the morning and take out any left over residue from trash.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  14. #14
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    Default Garbage burning at the evening campfire

    I live in a part of the country where folks still use burn barrels for their household trash. It is disgusting but you just can't get them to break the habit. Same thing at a campsite or shelter. My brother and I laid into a boy scout troop a couple years ago for burning their trash at an AT shelter and the scout leaders didn't see anything wrong with it. In their minds the only options were to burn it or leave it in the woods.
    You can walk in another person's shoes, but only with your feet

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlehead View Post
    I have no problem with people burning their trash. But they should go through the fire in the morning and take out any left over residue from trash.
    lol ya right

  16. #16

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    The only trash I have ever burned on the AT was the huge pile of garbage we found at a shelter. I have no problem packing out my trash,and always do. But the food and wrappers others leave becomes fuel.

  17. #17
    Registered User StubbleJumper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slow Trek View Post
    The only trash I have ever burned on the AT was the huge pile of garbage we found at a shelter. I have no problem packing out my trash,and always do. But the food and wrappers others leave becomes fuel.

    Yes, I end up doing this on occasion too. You roll into a shelter to spend the night, and the pigs from the previous week or two just abandoned their crap in the shelter. No biggie, just get a decent fire going if it's permitted and if the weather is suitable, and then burn that crap. I find that burning abandoned socks or shirts works best when you take a stick and hold the clothing above the fire so that it burns completely. After 20 minutes of effort, no more abandoned socks, no more t-shirts and no more sweatshirts. Cotton might kill, but it sure burns well.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    ...
    Shelter caretakers will burn it...so they pack less out
    I've seen this also

    But i preach no fires. Short of hypothermia, theres not a single legitimate reason to allow a fire on public land. ....
    LNT disagrees with you. Basically there is a reason for camp fires to the point that they say to limit their use and size, but understand there is something very 'human' about them. Campfires is part of the natural experience of people in nature. LNT does not try to isolate people from nature, but tries to limit this connection in areas that don't detract from the experience one is trying to have. For instance hiking LNT has one and one's pet travel on durable surfaces, however this does not apply to hunting LNT.

  19. #19

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    Very little of what I've carried into the woods is suitable for burning in a small fire. So far I haven't burned any trash while camping. At one place we saw where someone had recently cut down a healthy small tree and put it in the fire. It's crazy what people think will burn. Food, foil wrappers, clothing, plastic, bar wrappers, etc., clearly do not belong in a fire.

    There are some things that should not bother anyone, however: A page from the AWOL guide that is no longer required, one of those dried cotton wipes that can be rehydrated (not baby wipes!), and... well, the list is pretty short. Almost nothing we carry burns easily.

    But I am well aware that some people can only get along with short, binary rules. If those people are nearby then I'm happy to wait until the next day to destroy that unused page from AWOL.

  20. #20
    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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    Had a trail worker on CT tell us to put our trash in his giant bonfire. He was camped in one spot for a week, with several horses, doing trail work

    Shelter caretaker has told me same thing.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

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