Every “Litter” Bit Counts!
Working in a spring garden.

This week, I have had the privilege of watching a high school AP environmental science class teach first graders about different habitats. Wetlands, caves, oceans, woodlands……..so many different places and so many homes to different creatures. I listened as the kids explained how litter and pollution affects these places and creatures, and ultimately how it affects us, and I listened to the responses, and one first grader asked a monumental question. Why are we hurting us?

That’s a GREAT question!! Why ARE we hurting us?

I guess we first have to ask ourselves “What is litter and how is it hurting us?” “Litter” is trash improperly placed so as to be a nuisance or health concern. And “Littering” is knowingly depositing in any manner litter on any public or private property or in any public or private waters, without permission to do so. Basically, it’s throwing our trash or unwanted items anywhere we aren’t suppose too. As a society, we KNOW littering is bad. It is unsightly and unhealthy. It harms habitats and wildlife, and ultimately causes health problems for humans. So why do we continue to do it?

Common Reasons for Littering

Believe it or not, actual studies have been done to answer the question of why people litter, and here are 7 of the most common reasons:

  1. Not Taking Responsibility-“It’s not my problem”, or “Someone else will clean it up”
  2. A Lack of Convenient Trash Receptacles-“What else do I do if there isn’t a trash can?”
  3. A Presence of Litter- “It’s already messy so mine won’t matter”
  4. The Belief There are No Consequences- “No one will know”
  5. A Lack of Environmental Education- “It will decompose on its own”, or “it’s not hurting anyone”
  6. Refusing to be Financially Responsible for Disposal- “That’s too expensive, I will just dump it in the ditch.”
  7. An “I Don’t Care” Attitude

And did you know that pedestrians and motorists aren’t the only sources of litter? Not all litter is deliberately thrown on the ground. Sometimes its by an individual or group being careless when transporting trash or setting it out for pickup. There are actually seven primary sources of litter:

  • Household trash handling and curb collection
  • Dumpsters used by businesses
  • Loading docks
  • Construction and demolition sites
  • Trucks with uncovered loads
  • Pedestrians
  • Motorists

What Can We Do To Prevent Litter?

The first thing we have to do is change our own attitudes about litter. Realizing that we are responsible for our own trash and its disposal is a great first step. Relying on a mystery person or group to clean up or be financially responsible for clean-up is wishful thinking, since ultimately, you will pay for it in the form of taxes and higher fees. The money has to come from somewhere, and oftentimes, it cost more in the long run than it is just to pay the disposal fee in the first place. And sometimes the cost is measured in something more important than money, and that is your health. Different types of litter affects the environment and your health in different ways. Some may be more severe or immediate than others, but they all do damage.

The second thing to do is be responsible for our own trash! Carry a litterbag in your car, make sure you pick up after yourself, make sure your trash cans are secure, and NEVER dump items where they don’t belong. Set an example for others and don’t litter.

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