Burning Trash in Campfires – What Do You Think?

Campfire Trash

In an effort to provide the best possible information to the viewers of SmoothingIt.com, I am asking for your opinions on a question that I’ve recently encountered.

I’d like to know what your etiquette, policies and thoughts are on burning trash in your campfire.  Even when packing light, we woodsmen will still find that there will be trash to tend to.

I’ve attended outings where anything goes – burn everything in sight and not concern yourself with what you are burning in your campfire.

I’ve attended outings where there was absolutely no burning of any trash whatsoever.

But most often, I find myself in situations where trash-burning is limited to only certain times (like when no one is cooking or no one is going to be sitting around the fire for a while) and certain trash (mainly paper or paper products.)

Some would argue that it is bad for the environment.  Others would argue that it is bad for the campfire.  And even still, some would say that it’s pointless to put so much thought into such a trivial matter.

So, what do you think?  Do you have a trash burning opinion?  Do you pack everything out, do you burn anything and everything, or do you fall somewhere in the middle?

I should point out that I am not condoning or condemning any activity, just looking for others’ opinions.

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16 thoughts on “Burning Trash in Campfires – What Do You Think?

  1. Anything but paper should be packed out. Paper, basically wood except a few bleaches, is generally OK to burn. Plastics and metals however give off toxins that are bad for the environment and yourself. The fumes and smoke from this releases carcinogens into the air, and you definitely don’t want to deal with that.
    Best bet, pack it out.
    Just my opinion.

  2. If it burns, burn it. Sure, if you burn plastic you probably don’t want to breath the fumes. The only reason I might not is to avoid offending folks who get worked up about this kind of thing. But really, you’re better off worrying about things that actually matter to the environment, like maybe the gas-guzzling vehicle you drove to the trailhead.

    • Great point. We do tend to get worked up about things like this with little thought about the bigger things like gas-guzzlers and such. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I attempted to educate my family not to burn plastic for two reasons. First the fumes are highly toxic. I used to work for fisher Price toys when one of their storage warehouses full of childrens toys burned to the ground. the local area choked on the toxic fumes for days. Black acrid smoke. The second reason is that it seldom completely burns all the way. Globs of melted plastic spoons and cups find their way to the ashes and smother, cool and remain buried. We all enjoy a campfire no doubt, but even the very act of the campfire send unburned carbons on the cleanest burning fire into the atmosphere.

    No I am not anti campfire. But I think plastic, as an oil based by product is one we should stop burning.

  4. We are recyclers and generally pack out what we bring in, but we save paper trash to help with fire starting when it’s wet outside. A campfire is sort of sacred space to me. Don’t sully it with poison. Just my two cents…

  5. In Finland, a lot of food packaging is marked to indicate whether it is safe to burn, since burning garbage while camping is a regular practice here. I usually burn organic garbage, paper and other safe-to-burn trash. Otherwise, I pack it out.

    • That’s a sound way to handle it. It’s pretty nice that they mark it as safe to burn. Most don’t burn trash here (so it seems.) I’m like you, I’ve found that there is some of it that I think is fine to burn while other garbage should be carried out.

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