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Bury or burn?

Discussion in 'Bushcraft Chatter' started by Wayland, Apr 29, 2019.

  1. Wayland

    Wayland Hárbarðr

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    Here is a question I have long pondered.

    The almost unavoidable supply of food in plastic packaging created a dilemma for the camper. Is it better to dispose of plastic via the public waste system which largely involves land fill or is it better to burn plastic waste in a hot fire after the cooking has been done?

    I recall that many years ago the same question was discussed here and the conclusion I came away with at that time was that burning the waste was better in the long term but the fire needed to be hot to break the compounds down sufficiently. I can no longer find the thread in question and I have not recently reviewed the science that lay behind that conclusion.

    I am wondering if it might be wise to re-examine the issue in the light of up to date thinking to see if that is still the best practice or whether other options might now be considered better.

    I suspect this could become an emotional issue for some so let us try to stick to a logical examination of the facts if possible. Don't just post "I do such and such.." We want to know what the thinking is behind your practice?
     
    #1 Wayland, Apr 29, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
  2. Broch

    Broch Full Member

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    A simple answer from me but based on the practicalities rather than the science: We have a permanent fire pit in the camp and if we burnt plastic in there (even those foil like wrappers) there is a very good chance we could contaminate food being grilled next time; not a taste I'm partial to. The other practical aspect is, if you have a no waste on the fire rule you don't get the odd idiot absent mindedly (?) throwing something on the fire when others are cooking - I've seen it done and a whole steak ruined :(

    Obviously, burning plastic gives off a whole load of nasty chemicals including sulphur dioxide, dioxins, heavy metals, hydrochloric acid, as well as particulates - you would have to be careful to stay up-wind of the fire when burning.

    The environment minister Therese Coffey told the Commons: "In environmental terms, it is generally better to bury plastic than to burn it." because of the chemicals released into the air. However, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry, burning plastic gives off less CO2 emissions than burying it.

    On balance of the evidence currently available I choose not to burn.
     
  3. tankie

    tankie Forager

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    You take it home with you ,and dispose of it through the domestic waste.
    The only thing left behind on a vacated site should be a memory and a bit of flattened grass, nothing more .
     
  4. Wayland

    Wayland Hárbarðr

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    I have to admit, I tend to trust experts rather than politicians these days.

    As I understand it there is a definite difference between the chemicals released when plastics burn under their own heat and the those released when incinerated at higher temperatures, which is why I always make sure the fire is good and hot before disposal of plastic. I gather they release less toxic fumes when hotter.

    I should also say that I do not tend to generate much plastic waste anyway while camping. My butcher tends to wrap mostly in greaseproof paper with only a thin plastic bag on the outer and I try to re-wrap other foods the same way before my trip. ( Still means the plastic gets put into the public waste system at home though unfortunately. )

    On a longer camp, storage of waste packaging can also be an problem because of local wildlife and even hygiene issues, which is why I try to burn out tins before putting them in a bin bag as well.

    The particulates issue is coming to be better understood these days which is partially why I have raised the question again.
     
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  5. Wayland

    Wayland Hárbarðr

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    You would be hard pressed to spot any of my camp sites because I am very thorough in leaving no trace. I often work on archaeological sites where such practices are essential and we bag and carry ash from a site on leaving.

    I expect all of us follow good camping practices along the same lines but disposal through the public waste system leaves a footprint as well. It should not be ignored just because we cannot see it.
     
  6. tankie

    tankie Forager

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    modern incinerators deal with it better than an individual
     
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  7. Wayland

    Wayland Hárbarðr

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    Thank you for your considered opinion.
     
  8. Erbswurst

    Erbswurst Native

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    Modern societies recycle the plastic waste.
    Germany for example recycles currently round about 80% of all waste.

    Everybody should carry his packages home or put it in a public bin.

    If you burn it, you spoil the soil under it.
    I wouldn't like to eat vegetables that come from that spot.

    That's perhaps an option in Siberia or Alska, but not in a crowded country which has to save every square meter of soil.
     
  9. Woody girl

    Woody girl Full Member

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    I was thinking about this recently and thought back to earlier days before plastic was on everything.
    Meat was wrapped in greaseproof paper and veg came in paper bags. These bags could be used to start a fire or folded and taken home for future use somewhere at home.
    Perhaps we should adopt these practices again. Then we wouldn't have to bury or burn it.
    I do use a rigid plastic container for certain items such as meat but mostly I decant veg from their plastic macs into a reuseable cool bag. No plastic waste taken out ..non to dispose of or bring home.
    I've taken to buying loose veg if at all possible to reduce the home plastic waste problem.. I don't use camping meals as there are very few gluten free available but many do as they are quick and easy.
    It's a good question and one to look at your own practice and see if you can make a way for yourself not to even have it, let alone have to dispose of it. Try not buying any plastic for one week, it's realy hard if not impossible. Certainly frustrating and time consuming! But I'm finding ways by taking inspiration from the older people I know by asking them how they did it in their pre plastic days.
     
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  10. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    None. ( bury or burn)
    Take home and put in the plastic recycling bin.

    I used to either dig s hole, or place/hide under a stone, all the rubbish.
    Cans got chucked, usually under a bush, or lake.
     
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  11. Keith_Beef

    Keith_Beef Native

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    There have been lots of articles about low temperature incineration of PVC releasing dioxins into the environment; there was a big scandal about this in Italy, (back in the 1990s, I think) .

    I've even read articles in the US that state that you should not cook your food over driftwood found on the seashore, because the sodium chloride (salt) crystallised in the wood, from the seawater, also produces dioxins during low-temperature combustion.

    I would rather unpack any foods that I intend to take on a trip from any plastic packaging, re-pack it in greaseproof paper, and then be comfortable burning the paper. For things that can't be repackaged like this, take the packaging to a proper bin or bring it home.
     
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  12. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    So salting the meat before grilling is a no-no?
     
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  13. Fadcode

    Fadcode Full Member

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    Recycling is good if it is properly done, the problem was that most of our plastic waste was sold to the likes of China, and after they sorted the good stuff out from it, the rest was discarded into the sea and oceans, a good money earner by the private refuse handling firms who basically were more interested in profits than the good of the environment, China eventually banned the import of the waste plastics from this country, but I am sure other countries are still taking it.
    The only way forward regarding this waste is to use paper packaging instead of plastic, but even the snowflakes are now demanding Mac D bring back the plastic straws, because they don't like the cardboard ones.
     
  14. Keith_Beef

    Keith_Beef Native

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    I don't know... I suppose that the temperature at the burning driftwood is high enough to produce dioxine, while at the surface of the salted meat the heat is too low...

    But then, America... Ever been to a restaurant in California? The first thing you see on the way in is a big warning that "food served in this establishment contains substances known to the State of California to cause cancer, kill kittens and generally mess up your day".
     
  15. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Paper straws...
    Yesterday we went to a seaside restaurant, for food and drinks. They had swapped for paper straws ( but kept the plastic cups).
    One drink took about 4 straws to sip.
    Good idea, bad design. Should be made from waxed paper.
    Or at least have a waxed inner and outer surface.
     
  16. santaman2000

    santaman2000 M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    California has determined that saliva causes cancer. But only when ingested in small amounts over an extended period.
     
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  17. santaman2000

    santaman2000 M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Banning the plastic straws had less to do with the general pollution from plastic and more to do with them getting getting stuck in the noses or intestines of sea life. If I remember correctly they were being mistaken for food. In any case switching to paper straws just shifts the environmental problem from one type of pollution to d forestation and whatever pollution is generated in the manufacturing process.
     
  18. Paul_B

    Paul_B Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    I have no idea where the science would lead us in this matter. I know it's not what you wanted but I pack any waste out with me. If it goes into my domestic waste system at work I am pretty certain it's not got a good record on recycling. A few years back the local tip (recycling collection point) posted high 80 - low 90% recycling rate. Then something happened and the figure dropped to at best about 66.7% for a good month. I suspect they have been caught out with dodgy waste accounting practises.

    So my view is only based on the desire to avoid burning plastic waste or plastic coated paper waste. My opinion would hold more credibility if the local council had a higher recycling rate I think.

    One other point, burning things in the fire could look like those neds on the side of Loch Lomond who used to camp, have a fire and drink beer all night then burn everything, no matter how incomplete the combustion was.

    Quick question, what is the coating on greaseproof paper? Is that an environmental option because any coating on paper prevents recycling. Indeed even a pizza box with grease stain could result in the paper bale it's in being rejected for recycling. It's why coffee cups can't be recycled, because they're coated.
     
  19. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Years ago, the talk was ‘paperless society’.
    Better for environment.
    I would say each paper straw had the equivalent of two paper sheets.
    So around 8 sheets per drink.

    Maybe the best solution os NOT supplying any straws?

    Lots of people put plastic in their fires, you can see that on the solidified plastic lumps left behind.
     
  20. santaman2000

    santaman2000 M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    I’m not sure I understand the main focus of the OP. Are we discussing how to dispose of it on the trail? Or how we should deal with it as a society at home?

    As a few others have said, on the trail we should just pack it out rather than burying or burning. On the other hand public waste disposal has other options. As pointed out recycling can be better (if the collection and transportation don’t generate a bigger pollution footprint than the waste stream) Burying in a landfill has both pros and cons: pro = it generally will be safe wherever it’s buried, and con = it will never break down without sunlight and will remain there taking space forever. Industrial incineration plants “should” have a means of capturing any pollutant gases and recycling them. But I expect reality differs from what “should” happen.
     
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