Tim Macartney-Snape from Leave No Trace outlines how we aim to dispose of the litter we collect through our 10 Pieces initiative in Nepal and other destinations around the globe.
There are three categories of litter/garbage produced on a trek. Each type of litter needs to be dealt with differently.
1. Biodegradable: kitchen food waste
ACTION: These should be carried away from any camping areas and buried in an area away from any streams and preferably in deep leaf litter or a village compost heap.
2. Non‐combustible litter: steel, aluminium cans, aluminium foil, glass
ACTION: These should be carried back out to the road head and disposed of in a properly managed landfill site.
3. Combustible litter: paper & plastic
ACTION: These can be burned but only in a well-designed incinerator so that no fire scar is left and also so that the burn is complete and clean. These incinerators (see video) are used at our wilderness and eco-camps in Nepal.
Our 10 Pieces initiative harnesses the collective power of travellers to collect paper and plastic litter on wilderness trails in Nepal, which we incinerate.
Here is a video of a clean burn. When the paper and plastic is fed slowly into the fire a complete and clean burn is the result. Only ashes remain. No scar on the earth.
Are plastics safe to burn?
Most plastics taken on treks will be made purely from hydrocarbons such as polyethylene and polypropylene. These are safe to burn and will only produce water and carbon dioxide if burned cleanly.
You should not burn PVC or Polystyrene as burning them can produce poisonous gases, these should be treated as non‐combustible.
Why burn litter?
Carrying out all litter on a long trek is expensive and impractical. Burning it in a controlled and managed way using a lightweight incinerator is clean and efficient, removing the possibility of that litter blowing or washing into the environment to be a risk to animals and creating an unsightly state to the landscape.
Responsible Litter Disposal in Peru, Bhutan, Mount Rinjani and Mount Kilimanjaro
On our treks in Peru, Bhutan and on Mount Rinjani and Mount Kilimanjaro our crew or mules carry all the litter collected over the course of the trek out from the trail and back to the nearest city to be responsibly disposed.
In Cusco in Peru we worked with Turismo Cuida to ensure that our plastics are collected and delivered to the GIAMAT plant in Cusco, where the litter is sorted, packed and delivered to recycling plants in Lima.
In Indonesia and Bhutan the litter is taken to the nearest city where it is delivered to a recycling plant. In Tanzania the litter is taken to landfill sites.
Written by Tim Macartney-Snape, Leave No Trace