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Conservationists Would Really Like People to Stop Throwing Banana Peels on the Ground

Banana peels don't "quickly disappear" at high altitudes; it can take years for a single peel to decompose.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jul 19 2019, 11:00am

Photo: Getty Images

Ten years ago, the conservationists at the John Muir Trust advised hikers to stop leaving banana peels at the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. At any given time, they said, more than 1,000 banana peels could be found scattered on the Scottish mountain. "Banana skins are a particular problem because people think they will quickly disappear. Sadly this isn't the case," conservation officer Sarah Lewis told The Scotsman at the time. "When you speak to [hikers] about it, they say it is not a problem because they will biodegrade."

A decade later, the John Muir Trust is still reminding people to stop throwing their damn banana peels on the ground, and a couple of other groups are also doing its best to deal with what seems like a never-ending pile of fruit trash. Like Lewis said ten freaking years ago, banana peels don't "quickly disappear"; at the peak of Ben Nevis, which is 4,409 feet above sea level; it can take years for a single peel to decompose.

"The cold weather is the issue. The breakdown process is far slower and takes up to two years. Some portions of the mountain are sub-zero all year round where the sun doesn’t reach, it's pretty much a subarctic climate,” a spokesperson for the John Muir Trust told The Telegraph. "It varies from year to year but in some parts for most of the year it's like being frozen.”

In addition to that, a rotting banana peel—or a lot of rotting banana peels—can also affect the composition of the soil, which is why a number of organizations work constantly to clean up after careless hikers. Last weekend, the volunteers at the Real3Peaks Challenge picked up eight kilograms (17.6 pounds) of banana peels on the Ben Nevis summit, and on the path leading up to it. The group estimates that approximately 300 peels are dropped on the mountain every week.

On the bright side—and despite the 'Ah shit, here we go again' annual fight against banana peels—apparently hikers and walkers aren't leaving as much trash behind as they used to. "[S]ince I started the Real3Peaks back in 2013, [Ben Nevis] has steadily become noticeably cleaner," Real3Peaks founder Rich Pyne wrote in a Facebook post. "In the first year, we shifted about 230KGs off The Ben, last year was approx. 135KGs. (Mostly banana and fruit peel, and tissues!!!), a huge difference in weight and volume."

Ben Nevis has seen a sharp increase in foot traffic, with a whopping 160,000 people attempting to reach the summit last year, and a lot of those day-hikers (or just briefly enthusiastic Instagrammers) don't know to take all of their trash with them, don't know that banana peels can be a huge pain in the ass for groups like Real3Peaks, or they just don't care. "There’s been a surge in visitors to Ben Nevis and the popularity for the Highlands is growing due to social media bringing it to life," the Trust spokesperson continued. "Where these kinds of visitors might not go the whole way up some mountains, they all go up Ben Nevis. It’s not just experienced walkers, who are more aware when it comes to climbing and dropping litter."

So come on, people. It's not that hard to put a banana peel back in the bag you pulled it out of, and it's not that hard to carry it back down the mountain. Don't make the Trust yell at you in 2029.