Most of us know that littering is wrong. Cigarette butts, crumpled and cracked plastic water bottles, fast food wrappers, sharp metal cans, and plastic shopping bags make a mess of neighborhoods, parks, roadsides, and streams. Wind, water, animals, and traffic move litter around, sending it down storm gutters, into fences and trees, and onto lawns and parking lots. When litter washes into our rivers, lakes, and oceans, it causes health problems for both humans and wildlife. Plus, it’s really ugly.
Keep America Beautiful (KAB) has been working for over 65 years to help reduce litter in our country. Their studies show that in the last 45 years, litter in America has decreased by 61%, which is great. But there is still a lot of work to do. Over 51 billion pieces of litter still appear near roadways each year. That’s 6,729 items per mile of roadway! In surveys, nearly half of all Americans admit to littering at least once in the past five years. And the price we all pay is staggering. A recent KAB study determined that we Americans spend $11.5 billion every year to clean up the litter we could have disposed of properly.
If people know littering is wrong, why do they still do it? According to KAB research, the number one reason people litter is because they don’t feel responsible for keeping an area clean. So, outside their own yards or neighborhoods, they may not think litter will affect them. Or, they may think that someone will come along and pick up after them. To make matters worse, once an area looks littered, people think it is okay to throw more trash there.
It doesn’t have to be this way. People choose to litter — and they can choose not to. Before you drop that cheeseburger wrapper or cigarette butt out of a car window, stop and make the choice to take it to a trash can. If everyone chooses to stop littering, people and wildlife will be healthier and our roads, streams, and other areas will be more beautiful than ever before. And, feel free to pickup any litter you find as you walk through your community to either recycle or dispose of it.
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