Ben Nevis climbers urged to take home banana skins as 'organic litter' piles up

Laura FitzPatrick
The Real3Peaks Challenge team collected 8kg of banana skins on Ben Nevis - Real3Peaks Facebook

Climbers are being urged to stop leaving banana skins and orange peel on Britain’s most popular mountains as they essentially freeze and fail to biodegrade.

Mountain conservation teams looking after Ben Nevis and Snowdon have called for visitors to treat “organic litter” as they would other litter, because they can take two years to decompose in the cold climate.

The calls follow a “surge” in visitor numbers to the country's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.  Last week, the Real3Peaks Challenge litter pickers collected 8kg of banana skins on the mountain.

The waste, which is discarded by the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the mountains, is often left to the clean-up teams to collect as walkers assume the fruits will take just weeks to decompose.

The Snowdonia National Park Authority complained that when every climber carries a snack the waste left behind is “significant” and takes years to disappear.

The eventual biodegrading process can also be problematic for the natural environment and changes the acidity of the soil. Credit: Real3Peaks Facebook

They said that the eventual biodegrading process can also be problematic for the natural environment and changes the acidity of the soil.

The conservation charity the John Muir trust added that it collected 1,000 banana skins from the Ben Nevis summit during a clean-up of litter in 2009 but it is a growing issue.

“The cold weather is the issue, the break down 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 said.

“It varies from year to year but in some parts for most of the year it's like being frozen.”

The teams at the John Muir trust who lead the clean up of Ben Nevis said that that an increase in visitors has caused more problems than ever when it comes to climbers leaving rubbish on the mountain.

The mountain ordinarily sees 120,000 take on the summit a year, but last year over 160,000 people visited Ben Nevis.

A spokesperson added: “Although there's been a lot more improvements with litter due to a much greater awareness, it’s got worse recently.

“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. 

“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.”

Peter Rutherford, the Snowdonia National Park Authority’s Access Officer said: “If you have 550,000 walkers a year on Snowdon alone and everybody has an apple or a banana in their bag, then this is a significant amount of organic waste that will take a few years to decompose. 

“It’s unfortunate that people don’t equate litter with organic litter. They think it's acceptable but obviously it's not,  even in the countryside. Our advice is that whatever goes up should go down.”