Post Halloween candy wrappers are scattered on the ground about this time of year. On the walk to my daughter’s school, I frequently see plastic sandwich baggies or granola bar wrappers. (Funny, because I thought we ended littering in the 1980’s). I usually pick them up, but sometimes it becomes an overwhelming task because there seems to be no end to it. I have taught my children that they should pick up litter and put it in its proper place (the recycle bin if it’s recyclable, the garbage if it’s not). But, once I (or they) pick up the litter, it is our responsibility to take care of it.
What does litter have to do with sustainable living?
Well, beyond the pure aesthetics, it can contaminate soil and water. Especially if it seeps into the water table as well as clog storm drains and cause flooding.
On land, litter can smother plants, start fires and harm or kill animals. It also attracts rats and harmful bacteria. On roadways, it can cause automobile accidents and injuries. Like when people throw cans (or their fast-food restaurant waste) out their car window. When litter (such as plastic straws and six-pack rings) end up in the ocean, it is devastating to marine life. Cigarette butts are terribly toxic.
Clean up efforts cost millions of dollars – so taxpayers are ultimately affected by litter in one form or another. In a landmark study by Keep America Beautiful found that 85% of littering is attributed to individuals.
For our own part, we can be responsible about our own waste. And…as you are walking around – whether it be a parking lot, sidewalk, beach or mountain trail – pick up litter you see and dispose of it properly. We can carry around biodegradable bags in our pockets or purses or backpacks and collect items in them until we can get it to a proper receptacle. We’ll feel better for having done something good and the world will be a more beautiful place.
For more information on this topic, see these links:
Keep America Beautiful has heaps of research about littering, but also ways you can get involved: