Far and away I pick up more facial tissues on the trail than any other type of litter. Just the other day I picked up four in one day. The photo to the right depicts one of them. So I feel compelled to insist that tissues are trash. I simply don’t understand what people are thinking. Do they imagine that tissues decompose within a few days of hitting the ground? Well, they don’t. Do they simply not care? Probably.
But if you toss your tissue you’re making me pick it up. And I pick them up, despite potentially exposing myself to disease. After spending the first five years of my childhood on an Indiana farm ingesting all kinds of microbes, I now have an immune system made of iron and antibodies. But that doesn’t make it OK for you to toss your tissues.
Tissues are trash. Carry out whatever you carry in.
Over in my other blog, I recently wrote about the things we carry. But this post is about the things we choose not to carry with us when hiking on the trail — basically what we toss aside as trash. Not that I condone such behavior — far from it. How could I when I am required (as a volunteer steward) to pick up whatever someone throws away?
And what you (the collective you, not you personally) throw away tends to be fairly predictable. I would say that most things fall into one of these categories, listed in order of perceived occurrence:
- Tissues. Far and away the item I pick up the most are facial tissues (see pic). Yeah, you’re saying “Yuck” right now and for good reason. However, in all of the years that I have been picking these up, I’ve never gotten sick (knock on wood).
- Drink containers. Actually tied for second are drink containers and food wrappers of various kinds. Drink containers can range from the frequent (coffee cups, soda cans) to the less frequent (vodka bottles). You can imagine how amusing I find it to walk down the trail in the morning with an empty vodka bottle in my hand.
- Food wrappers. By “food wrappers” I mean everything from a candy wrapper to a banana peel (see pic). Banana peels are frankly rare (thankfully), but candy and gum wrappers are not. But at least they fit in a pocket better than a banana peel.
- Cigarette butts. Being still in a multi-year drought, finding a cigarette butt scares me. The thought of someone with fire walking around among all that dead grass just above the city of Sonoma is horrifying, but people apparently do it. It is yet another thing that people do that defies the rules (such as bringing their dogs or bicycles onto the trail). If you are smoking up there you had better hope that I don’t run into you.
I’m certainly not the only steward picking up trash, but since I hike the trails nearly every day I have a fairly good sense of what people toss aside. If you have found something I haven’t mentioned, feel free to post a comment below. Extra points for items bigger than a coffee cup.