Trash in campfires extremely polluting, illegal

With a fire burning nicely, it can feel natural to toss camp or party trash in it to burn — paper plates, paper towels, plastic wrap, foam meat trays and the like. But what goes up must come down and researchers have found that burning trash pollutes both the immediate area and lakes and forests beyond.

What’s more, for the most part it is illegal in Michigan.

Michigan is the last Great Lakes state to allow private burning of garbage at all. A 2012 Michigan ban does make it illegal to burn plastic, rubber, foam, chemically treated wood, textiles, electronics, chemicals or hazardous waste. The ban was put in place due to growing understanding of the dangers of burning trash.

Garbage has changed a lot in the past 50 to 100 years and now contains many plastic and chemically treated materials, making the hazards of burning more serious today than for previous generations.

Cancer-causing and otherwise toxic compounds like lead, mercury, dioxins, hydrocarbons and hexachlorobenzene are released in the smoke and sooner or later come down — often over the individual’s yard or favorite campground. Even burning paper (which is about the only flammable material not included in the ban) releases dioxin, a carcinogen potent at even very low levels.

When these chemicals come down over farms and lakes they are consumed by livestock and fish directly or through the food chain. Human health effects of exposure include damage to the nervous system, kidneys or liver; respiratory illnesses; cancers, and reproductive or developmental disorders.

To prevent casual burning of trash at bon fires and when camping, make garbage and recycling containers easily available for your party to use. When arriving at a campground, check with staff about locations of dumpsters and recycling bins.

Keep Manistee County beautiful by properly disposing of garbage and recycling. Reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, and then dispose the rest with a commercial waste hauler or your local transfer station.

For assistance learning how to recycle or properly dispose of unwanted items, call toll free 855-2Go-Zero (855-246-9376).

Manistee County PA69 Recycling Program is operated under contract by Iris Waste Diversion Specialists, Inc. on behalf of Arcadia, Brown, Cleon, Maple Grove, Marilla, Onekama and Springdale Townships.

Information provided by Networks Northwest Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

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