06/12 Health & Wellness Tip – Litter

June is Great Outdoors Month so the focus is the environment. There are many things in our environment that have an impact on us and our health. Some of these things we have very little, if any, control over, while others we have complete control over.

Greg and I walk around our sub-division a couple times each week. This is close to a two mile walk. Two sides of the walk border major streets and the other two sides border a park, green belt, and another subdivision.

When we walk, we often pick up some litter and dispose of it when we come to a trash can. About a week ago I told Greg that once a week we should bring a bag for trash during one of our walks. So, this morning was that walk. A walk that usually takes us 30-35 minutes took more like 50 minutes today.

We each started the walk with a disposable, plastic grocery bag. At first, there was no trash to be found and I was very happy to see this. It made me think we might not need our trash bags after all. As we got closer to one of the major streets, we started to see items to pick up. We even found another bag, which was great since, it turns out, we could have brought four bags and filled all of them.

About half-way through our walk, we became more selective about what to pick up as our bags were virtually full. Eventually, we couldn’t pick up anything else. The majority of the trash was found along the two major streets. The thing is, there are garbage cans along these streets.

06122016E_LitterIt makes me wonder, how does all this litter end up where it shouldn’t be? What % is accidental opposed to someone being lazy or purposely leaving it on the ground?

The Keep America Beautiful non-profit says there are seven primary sources for litter:

  • Household trash handling and collection
  • Business dumpsters
  • Loading docks
  • Construction/demolition sites
  • Uncovered loads in trucks
  • Pedestrians
  • Motorists

I admit, I remember one time when something flew out of my car as I drove with all my windows down. I was going to re-use a bag to buy tea at one of my favorite tea stores. Lesson learned – that plastic bag should not have been sitting on the seat where it was able to blow away in the wind.

Anyhow, that incident makes me understand how litter can accidentally happen. Does that explain all the litter we collected this morning? Maybe. Regardless, I felt great about helping to clean up during our walk and will continue to make this a weekly thing, if not more often.

Walking and picking up litter is certainly one thing we can do to help beautify our neighborhoods. BTW, about two hours later we saw a woman walking with a trash bag picking up litter.

Here are some other things we can do to help with litter:

  • Know and educate others on the litter laws where you live (50 US states littering penalties)
  • Keep a trash bag in your car for litter you find
  • Volunteer for clean-up events
  • Use your ashtray or center console for small trash items until you can dispose of it in a garbage can
  • Pick up after your dog during a walk and at the dog park (BTW, this is one of my pet peeves during hikes!!)
  • Make sure your garbage bags are tied when placed outside for pickup

The best prevention – stop litter from ever happening! Once it is out there, we can do our best to dispose of it properly.

by Michele Spear