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Breakdown: Why littering can lead to pollution

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 4:09 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Littering has changed over the decades and today people throw things like a cigarette butts or a plastic cup out the window. These types of littering material became more of an issue in the 1950s when manufacturers started producing disposable products and packaging produced with materials such as plastic.

This has increased litter to approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste according to research and finds its way into the oceans every year and litter continues to be done on purpose.

Litter can come in a variety of different things but some items are littered more frequently. Researchers found that the most common littered items are:

  • Cigarette butts
  • Food wrappers
  • Plastic bottles
  • Disposable cups
  • Grocery bags
  • Straws
  • Beverage cans
  • Tire and vehicle debris

Researchers say that close to 20% of litter on land comes from lose items in the back of trucks or trash bins but most litter comes from people who discard materials on purpose. Around 76% of litter on roads originates from motorists and pedestrians.

Research found that most people litter because of :

  • Laziness or carelessness
  • Lack of access to trash receptacles
  • Lenient law enforcement
  • Presence of litter already in the area

Litter can cause pollution because as it degrades, chemicals and microparticles are released. These chemicals aren’t natural to the environment and can cause several problems according to research. Environmentalist warn that things like cigarette butts can contain chemicals such as arsenic and formaldehyde that can get into the soil and freshwater sources, which can impact humans and animals. According to research 60% of water pollution is attributed to litter.

Litter can also pollute the air because around 40% of the world’s litter is burned in the open air which can release toxins. The release of toxins in the air can cause respiratory issues and other health problems, and can even be the foundation for acid rain. In addition according to research, over a million animals die annually eating or becoming trapped in discarded trash.

Researchers say that plastic litter is the most common killer of animals, and marine animals. Annually over 100,000 dolphins, fish, whales, turtles, and more drown after eating litter or by getting tangled up in litter. If liter is

On top of all of that, if litter is not properly disposed it can be the breeding ground for for bacteria and diseases. Litter can spread diseases and viruses.

We can help decrease liter with clean up efforts and attend organized cleanups. Increase the number of disposable bins if you can. One of the reasons that people litter is due to lack of public garbage bins, or overflowing bins that do not get dumped. By increasing the number of available trash cans and the frequency that they get cleaned, communities can help deter littering.

Stronger litter and dumping laws can help especially when there are serious consequences.

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