Officials appeal to hikers to not toss fruit peels on mountain trails

Hikers urged not to toss fruit peels on Taiwan's high mountain trails

Examples of foods that do not decompose on alpine trails. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Hikers are being urged not to toss fruit peels and other food waste on Yushan and other alpine trails in Taiwan as the cold temperatures act as a "refrigerator" that prevents such refuse from decomposing as quickly as they may think, possibly endangering wildlife, reported CNA.

Chang Ya-tzu (張雅慈), Director of the Yushan National Park Management Office, said that because hikers think food waste will decompose quickly, they have been littering the mountain with banana peels, orange rinds, zongzi strings and leaves, and corn cobs.

Chang said that in fact, because of the cold temperatures at high altitudes on the mountains, fruit skins do not easily decompose as "it's like they are being stored in a refrigerator." They may finally naturally decompose after many months, but they may retain pesticide residues which may harm the animals, and the presence of the food may alter the foraging habits of wildlife. 

Chang recalled an encounter with a hiker who tossed a banana peel off the Baimulin Observation Deck. When she asked the tourist not to litter, the person responded by saying, "fruit skins will rot, why can't I throw them away?"

However, after Chang explained that the fruit does not easily break down in the cold mountain air, the tourist actually hopped over the fence, climbed down the mountainside and retrieved the banana peel. The tourist then surprised Chang by saying, "after I heard your explanation, I accept it."

Chang said that many hikers cannot fight the temptation to "lighten their load" by discarding food scraps, used gas canisters, empty beer bottles, and empty cans. To avoid being discovered, some hide their trash behind trees, however experienced rangers know how to spot these hiding places and have to carry the refuse down the mountain themselves. 

Deputy Director Chang Lin-wen (長林文) said regardless of major trails or small paths, fruit peels and other food waste should never be left on the mountain or buried, because it could change the feeding habits of wildlife and even make them sick. There was a well-known case of a bear who became habituated to human contact after eating food waste, began to let humans feed him and became nicknamed "Trash Bird."

When traveling the mountain, Chang said that guests should observe park regulations, and once they are finished, they should take any food waste, spent canisters, or empty beverage containers with them back down the mountain in order to maintain its beauty for others to enjoy.