Does Littering Actually Matter?
By Zakeira Smith
Litter may appear to be harmless and innocent, but its not, and in reality littering is an unhealthy habit people of all ages in each country do every day. Littering becomes a habit to most people, they do it for so long and so often, that in the end they do not realize they do it. Littering of any kind affects our environment so badly, not only does it destroy the place and make everywhere look dirty and badly looked after it also has many more serious consequences.
How does litter affect us?
Plastic litter affects us in many ways. The first reason being it doesn’t necessarily stay as one whole piece. Plastic can take years to decompose (For example it is estimated that plastic bottles take up to 450 years to decompose!!) As it does it breaks down into microplastics. Microplastics can be observed by all sorts of animals especially marine life. As litter decomposes, chemicals and microparticles are released. These chemicals aren’t natural to the environment and can cause multiple problems. These chemicals can end up in and pollute the soil and water, it can even pollute the air too! Another reason is that plastic litter is the most common killer of animals, especially those in the ocean. Researchers estimate that over one million animals die each year after ingesting or becoming trapped in littered rubbish. Sea turtles are one main species that suffer from plastic and litter pollution – A sea turtle only has to ingest as little as 14 pieces of plastic to have a 50% increased risk of death, but death could result from just a single piece.
Why do people litter?
Many people litter because they simply don’t care. Laziness and carelessness leads to habit of littering, many people throw rubbish anywhere without thinking of the result of their actions. They feel they are not responsible for public areas like streets and parks, and that the litter will become somebody else’s problem. A second reason why people litter is because of a lack of access to rubbish bins, most people will only walk a short distance before giving up on finding a bin. A few more bins especially in public places will help resolve this problem. Another thing that would encourage someone to litter is presence of it already in the area. This will make the person who litters feel more encouraged to litter, they will know it’s not only them littering and won’t feel so bad. The last reason is no law enforcement, if there is no law enforcement or charges for littering many people won’t care about it, they believe their actions won’t do anything and without a punishment there is nothing to make them think about what they are doing is wrong.
What are the most commonly littered items?
The most commonly littered item are cigarette butts. Each year more than 2 million cigarettes are found littering our beaches and oceans. The butts of cigarettes are not biodegradable, and one cigarette alone can contaminate 7.5 litres of water with chemicals. Plastic bottles are also common with more than 1 million plastic bottles, 860,000 plastic bottle caps, and 350,000 plastic beverage lids being found each year littering our coastlines taking an extremely long time to break down. Lastly more than 400,000 plastic grocery bags and 424,000 other types of plastic bags are collected every year. Plastic bags are remarkably dangerous for marine life. Many animals end up dying because they either get caught in the plastic or they try to eat it.
What can we do to help?
The ideal way to handle the problem of littering is for each person to take responsibility and try their best to propel dispose of litter. But here are four different ways to help our environment and stop people littering. One of them is to attend clean ups, attending clean-ups not only helps the environment but also helps make our community look better too. Another way is for public places to increase their number of bins (otherwise there is a lack of rubbish bins or extremely full/overflowing bins that don’t regularly get emptied creating another reason for people to litter.) By increasing the number of available rubbish bins and the frequency they get emptied will help avoid littering. Another helpful barrier to littering is strong laws and regulations, people are more likely to follow litter rules if there are serious laws and consequences. The last way would be to teach others (especially younger kids) about the effects littering has. Teaching others will increase what they know, hopefully increasing their understanding of the consequences of what littering does to the environment and they might think about things before they litter next time.
In conclusion littering is in no way acceptable, as it is bad for us in many ways, polluting our air, killing our animals. Most of the problem is due to peoples lack of care and their inability to take responsibility of their actions! Littering not only makes the environment look bad but you and the community too. Everybody needs to get their act together and make better decisions about how they dispose of their litter; because without litter we would have a much healthier and happier environment.