Litter Facts

Facts About Littering

One of the nicer facts about littering is that we do far less of it, at least on a per capita basis, than we did 40 or 50 years ago. Back then, an open car window was often looked at as a kind of trash dispenser. A few still regard it as such, but most stow their trash while in a car and save it for the next convenient trash receptacle.

There have been anti-litter campaigns for a long time, certainly during the past 50 years, and they have an effect. Campaign themes vary from the treat of fines, which can be effective, to that of "Keep America Beautiful", which is also effective.

Leading By Example - One of the ways to keep littering under control, or at least somewhat under control is to lead by example. One of the more interesting facts about littering in this regard is a campaign that got its start back in the 1950's, and is still going strong. It has been remarkably effective. It all started when Disneyland first opened in Anaheim, California. The entrance to the park is at the head of Main Street USA. When you first enter Disneyland, one of the first things you see are several employees picking up litter, usually small things like pieces of paper or candy wrappers. They are there all the time the park is open. As you go farther into Disneyland there are fewer and fewer employees picking up trash, in fact in most areas there are none. There is also no litter. Tourists to the park get the message at the front entrance. “Don't litter - this is a spotlessly clean place”. So tourists don't litter, and if one does, another tourist will probably pick the item up and dispose of it.

We see the same thing alongside out roads and highways where various organizations, families, and individual volunteers pick up letter, either in cooperation with the state or county, or on their own.

Culprits – Pickup Trucks - Still, statistical facts about littering show that state by state there are thousands of tons of litter dumped every year, so we have a long ways to go. If you walk along a highway you can see that some litter is intentional, some is there out of carelessness, and some is probably accidental. In some western states where the pickup truck reigns supreme, things are always flying out of the truck bed. This really can't be called accidental littering, though in some instances it might be. It's usually due to carelessness, inattention, or simply not caring.

Sometimes litter is caused when a dumpster or trash can, such as in a park, is filled to overflowing. People still try to stuff things in, but not always successfully. There is always litter around construction sites. That's hard to avoid. But some of it manages to escape, usually carried by the wind to a nearby area. Some items, like helium party balloons, can travel for miles before they eventually land and become litter. Dogs of course leave their own kind of litter.

Don't Just Let It Be - Most of us aren't in the habit of picking up other peoples litter. Either we're afraid it's contaminated, or we simply feel it's not our business to do so. That's a good argument, but it really should be our business. We can't be expected to pick up hazardous waste, but we can at least report it.

We don't find as many cigarette filters on the ground as we would have some years back, since fewer people smoke. When people do smoke, it's probably fair so say they dispose more of the filters and butts today than used to be the case. You can walk downtown in many cities and seldom see a cigarette butt on the sidewalk, You will see them of course, but nothing like you used to. What we see more of today is disposable paper and plastic such as cups and wrappers. Also foam is in greater abundance, some of which rapidly decomposes, if a thousand years is considered rapid.  Plastic and foam is not only unsightly, but whether on the ground or in the water often is a threat to wildlife. Wildlife can choke on litter, be poisoned by it, or ensnared in it. Glass and metal litter can also cause injuries, both to wildlife and to people.

Facts About Candles - There's a song that includes the lyrics, “if everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world it would be”.

Facts About Littering - If everyone picked up just one piece of litter, the world might not be brighter, but would certainly be a little cleaner.