Protect our environment. Don’t be a litter bug! Flickr user johnjk.
Why do people litter? The nonprofit Keep America Beautiful (KAB) performed a large-scale behavioral study on littering to determine the causes, the costs and the effects of littering. Littering is a personal choice that can stem from a lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions and surroundings; litterers may also have a sense of entitlement—a feeling that other people should clean up after them. As for the effects of littering, there are obvious environmental consequences, but the cost of this national behavioral problem may surprise you. According to KAB, litter costs the US $11.5 billion every year. Their study is chock-full of other littering facts and littering statistics, but here is something else that may give you pause: Plastic litter has increased by 165% since 1969.
If you consider the history of plastics and the fact that the sixties marked the beginning of their commercialization, it may seem obvious that there would be a drastic increase. However, we cannot ignore the ramifications of our fast adoption of this material, and how it has changed our world. Plastic pollution in the ocean, for example, is devastating marine life and other wildlife.
So how do we stop littering and protect our environment? According to KAB, “About 85% of littering is the result of individual attitudes. Changing individual behavior is key to preventing litter.” The KAB study found that, “Most littering behavior—81%—occurred with notable intent. This included dropping (54%), flick/fling of the item (20%), and other littering with notable intent (7%).” They also note that litter begets more litter. Basically, people are more likely to litter in areas where others have already littered. Education, littering laws and enforcement can all help prevent litter, but ultimately we are all in this together. Step 1: Don’t litter. Step 2: Encourage others to stop littering. Step 3: Get involved in your community. Volunteer. Encourage waste receptacles where they are lacking. If you see litter, pick it up.
Littering solutions start with each one of us as individuals to do our part and help save our environment. Take responsibility; take action; spread the word and Keep America Beautiful!