It’s still littering: Park rangers debunk myth on tossing apple cores, banana peels

Nature is not your compost pile.

That’s the message that rangers from Glacier National Park in Montana shared on Facebook Wednesday, busting the common myth that it’s all right to toss “natural” foods such as apple cores and banana peels on the ground because animals will eat them or they’ll decompose.

“These ‘natural’ food items will not decompose quickly. If animals don’t eat the food waste, decomposition will likely take much longer than you expect,” rangers wrote in the post, which has been shared around 50,000 times as of Friday. “Some fruit products can take years to decompose depending on the environment they are in!”

Apple cores biodegrade in eight weeks, The Guardian reports, while littered banana skins and orange peels can stick around for two years and a paper bag lasts about a month.

Even if scavenging wildlife chow down on littered leftovers, the practice of tossing out food can still have negative consequences, according to park rangers, who wrote that “if you throw your apple core out the window of your car, it may encourage wildlife to search for foods along roads. The more time they spend around roads, the higher the chance they’ll get hit by a car.”

What’s more, that orange and banana might seem natural to us, but neither tropical fruit is native to Glacier National Park or to many other areas across the U.S., park rangers said.

“Fruit and vegetable seeds that end up on the ground could result in a non-native plant growth,” rangers wrote. “Last but not least, no one wants to see your food waste decomposing on their visit to a pristine national park.”

Rangers told park visitors to plan ahead if they bring those foods into nature with them — that way, they will be able to pack up their organic food waste, take it back to civilization and dispose of it properly.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.