Is Ben Nevis going Bananas?

October 2009

Is Ben Nevis going Bananas?
Ben Nevis

Photo: Daniel Wrightson

The snack that's long been the must-have, quick energy fix for generations of walkers is suddenly at the centre of much disquiet amongst some environmental groups.

Conservationists have warned recently that discarded banana skins are posing a major litter problem that threatens to ruin the wild beauty of Ben Nevis.

During a survey carried out in September 2009 by The John Muir Trust, up to 1000 discarded banana skins were found on the summit plateau.

In fact on an ongoing basis, fifty-five per cent of the litter removed by volunteers working on behalf of The Trust is banana skin.

Conservation officer Sarah Lewis said:

"Banana skins are a particular problem because people think they will quickly disappear."

"Sadly this isn't the case."

"We've often caught walkers in the process of chucking their banana skin on the path."

"When you speak to them about it they say it is not a problem because they will biodegrade."

"Quite simply, if you carry something up, you should carry it back down."

Whilst banana skins - or indeed any discarded fruit or foodstuff - are a problem everywhere, the particularly cold temperatures at the summit of Ben Nevis mean that the scale of the problem is much greater.

The breakdown of biological materials takes much longer than is the case at lower altitudes. The result is that banana skins become buried under packed snow and remain there until a thaw.

Shocking as it may seem, banana loving litter louts are rapidly becoming as big a problem as those who leave sweet wrappers, crisp bags and drinks tins.

For more on the Banana Skins on Ben Nevis survey


“While resting during a walk in the Peak District last week, a sheep in distress came round the corner, unable to breath, jumping around, trying to cough or vomit, and starting to foam at the mouth. While we discussed how to do a Heimlich's manoeuvre on a sheep, it fortunately choked something up - which turned out to be a banana skin. Yet another reason not to drop banana skins on the hills!”

Barbara Matthewson, Berkhamsted


“I like to climb as well as walk and admittedly I have ditched the odd banana skin in my time albeit deep in braken. I will though now change my ways. As for other offenders don't be affraid to say something and in the case of skins explain why! If I see a litter lout I always give em both barrels.”

Ben Woods, Derby


“TNX for this article, it opened my eyes on something I must confess I did it myself... I left the occasional Banana peel on the Irish mountains during my hikes up there, while I always took plasic, tins, can's and paper back down with me (even that left by others). Like so many others it seemed I had the same idea, it's organic stuff (banana peels)so it poses no harm... Thanks for this post I know better now and will think about it when I come to the Ben Nevin's region next August/September to do some hillwalking... Greetz”

Johnny Verplancke, Bredene, Belgium


“Some of this is straightforward littering and some is probably ignorance. Personally I knew that banana skins don't biodegrade quickly in our climate, but I had thought until fairly recently that apple cores would quickly disappear (they don't). Any other fruit should be avoided too as anything that isn't 'native' could potentially affect the local flora & fauna. I get furious when I see litter on our mountains (plastic bottles being a particular menace). Our solution is to take an old carrier bag up with us and to pick up anything we see. That way we at least counter-act some of the damage done by others. Check out Bill Bryson's excellent 'Stop the Drop' campaign if you want to join us.”

Linda Skilbeck, Kingston


“The problem is far more widespread than Ben Nevis. I was walking at Kyle of Lochalsh some three years ago and a couple of approximately the same age as me (early 50's) opened a Snickers bar and just dropped the packaging on the floor. I picked it up [and] chased after them and said excuse me you dropped this. Expecting abuse or even a fight, all I got was a nervous laugh from the woman. So it is not that people don't realise what they do but that they just dont care. This topic has got me where I am at, my children and grandchildren have grown up with me beliefs instilled in them regarding litter but flytippers are a big problem in my small bit of heaven being South Wales. (Can I get off my soapbox now?) Regards”

Brendan Walmsley, Coytrahen


“I walked Ben Nevis in the summer as was disgusted by the amount of litter people had dropped both on the way and on the summit. As the saying goes "take nothing but photo's and leave nothing but footprints" It's not hard to take your rubbish down and there are plenty of bins in Fort William. Perhaps if any rangers/wardens see people dropping the litter they should issue fixed penalties.”

Janette Taylor, Wigan


“I live in Fort William and regularly walk/climb on the Ben. It's not just banana skins that get chukked! Orange peel is another culprit in the 'biodegradeable' stakes and I regret to say human poo appears - particularly in May/June when the snow melts. Don't drink the water out of the Red Burn then folks!”

Annette Ashworth, Fort William


“I think it is an absolute disgrace that people leave any type of rubbish on any of our mountain regions and anyone observing these actions should make it known that it is unacceptable!”

Anon,


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