Bet you didn't know that, right? (At least some people don't).
This summer I'm working as the Camp Host at Salmonberry Campground, a beautiful shady spot nestled off Highway 34 between the cities of Corvallis and Waldport, on the Alsea River in my favorite state of Oregon. I love the job, at least most of it. Let's forget about cleaning the bathrooms, but at least there are only two of them. Benton County hasn't gotten around to automating that job yet. This morning I decided to muck out all the fire pits at the campground, 28 in all, preparing for the Memorial Day weekend crowd. I've never done that particular chore before and it was kind of an eye-opener.
Armed with a shovel and bucket, I started out with my own fire ring. No problem, especially since I had my first campfire only last night. And on down the line.
Some just needed a little TLC; others I swear needed a backhoe. Getting out the non-burned and partially burned wood was easy, but I'm sure glad I was wearing gloves as it was definitely messy. Aha! What's that sparkling thing I see? Hmm. Crunched up aluminum foil. I wonder how long it would take for THAT to decompose? Let's check Google."Tinfoil- It does not biodegrade."
Well, that settles that. It would be here until the earth disappears in a puff of smoke or something. So, unless you're using wads of foil as a light source, either don't use it, use it for other things, or discard it in a better place, like the handy trash cans. The jury is still out on recycling the stuff. Apparently it needs to be clean, free of food or grease.
On to the next fire pits. Hidden below all the burned ash and chunks of charcoal were more shiny things, this time steel bottle caps. I couldn't find an exact lifetime for those, but tinned steel bottles take approximately 50 years to decompose. Quite a few recycling places are now accepting bottle caps.
Finally, doesn't it seem logical that cigarette butts would burn? After all, the rest of the cigarette does. Alas. No. The decomposition time of a cigarette filter is anywhere from 18 months to 10 years, depending of several factors. From the above source, here's a little more information about discarded cigarette butts:
"Used cigarette filters are full of toxins known as tar, and those chemicals leach into the ground and waterways, damaging living organisms that come in contact them.
So, I guess if you really have to smoke, get rid of those filters in a safe place, a spot that won't pollute the environment. Some places apparently have disposal receptacles, although I haven't seen anything like that.
It looks like my fire pit experience has turned into a bit more than I expected. I'll think more carefully when dealing with the junk people throw into the fire and expect to burn.