Unless you’ve lived under a rock your whole life, you know that littering is bad. We’re told about the billions of dollars spent to clean it up, the tons that end up in the ocean, even the ugliness of it; the list goes on, and yet people still do it.
Like many things, the main reason for this is people not believing the level of impact they have on the world. Yes, it’s easier to just toss your empty beer can over your shoulder than to search far and wide for a trash can (or the even less common recycling bin).
Maybe you have second thoughts, but then justify it by thinking “it’s just this once,” but get enough people thinking the same thing and we end up with an island twice the size of Texas made entirely of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean (seriously, learn more about it here). And worst of all, it’s not the only one.
If that’s not enough to convince you to throw your crap away every time, read on for some facts that should be enough to make everyone stop littering pronto.
1. Nine billion tons of litter end up in the ocean every year
If you missed that earlier tidbit about the freaking garbage islands floating in the oceans, maybe this will stick. Nine. Billion. Tons. And that’s not counting the waste that makes it into the trash can (which is a whole other issue), that’s just litter. Watch this fantastic 4-minute animated film that illustrates what that looks like.
2. Littering leads to animal attacks
As far as we know, humans are not a natural part of any animal’s diet. What increases the likelihood of an encounter (and not a cute one, so do NOT try to use this to lure an animal towards you) is littering. And not just food. Leaving any physical trace of your delicious smelling lifestyle (even used tissues) for animals to find increases their curiosity towards us.
Once they’ve tasted and enjoyed something distinctly belonging to humans (i.e. that apple core you figured would decay — spoiler alert, it won’t), they associate that with humans. In a nutshell, don’t litter and you don’t become a food source. Yay not getting mauled!
On a lighter note, now that you know how to handle your grub in the woods, check out this article for some tasty hiking snacks.
#SpoonTip: If you’re traveling to bear country or any other place with predators, do your research to find out what other precautions to take.
3. More than anything else, litter comes from food waste
If you’re on Spoon, you’re probably a foodie (and why wouldn’t you be? Food is glorious), and if you’re also broke af, fast food is a cheap, easy, guilty pleasure (or diet staple).
But according to a recent poll, fast food waste is the leader of the trash club. Over 1/3 of the litter cleaned up in the past year came from fast food, followed by paper and aluminum (*cough cough* that’s us, fellow beer drinkers).
4. Animals get caught in it and die
Don’t be the reason for this.
Okay, that’s rare, right? Wrong. Animals are curious. They don’t have grocery stores or restaurants to pop into when they’re feeling hungry, they have to hunt or scavenge for their food, and in a world overrun by people, that’s getting harder and harder.
I highly recommend reading this story published by The Humane Society of the United States, which elaborates on some of the cases they’ve seen of animals suffering at the hands of trash.
5. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there
Don’t think your community litters? I went hiking in the woods near a campground and figured I’d pick up litter to use as photos for this article. I figured I wouldn’t find much, but the above photo is what I had collected in under one hour.
And that’s in the woods, people. Plus, some is still in that plastic bag. Feel fired up to be more sustainable yet? Take a look at these 26 simple ideas for some inspo.
6. You get FINED
As in dolla dolla bills y’all — heck, according to this NSCL table, in some states you can even get sent to jail. Do you really want to be known as the dope who got arrested for missing the trash can after calling “Kobe”? Wouldn’t you rather be doing something awesome with your life, like, oh I don’t know, starting a kickass food blog like one of these? Just sayin’.
7. You could cause a car accident
Ever see a weird shape approaching your car as you cruise down the highway and you think, “Oh sh*t, better swerve out of the way!” and as you do so, narrowly missing the pissed off car in the next lane, you realize it was just a plastic bag… drifting through the wind, wanting to start again (and suddenly that Katy Perry lyric makes sense)?
Well, fun fact: according to this study by Green Eco Services, that’s not how the story ends for everyone. About 25,000 accidents are caused in the US by litter each year. Seriously. Don’t. Be. That. Person.
So please, next time you can’t find a place to toss the remnants of your delicious sushiritto or immaculate rainbow bagel, don’t be the “just this once” person. Stop trashing the planet and start saving it.