Everyone is taught during childhood not to litter. Whether it’d be a lecture from a teacher, or a scolding from a parent, the public are very much aware of the negative impacts of throwing trash anywhere but the desired means of disposal. So why is it that “an estimated one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year” (WDC) from the same garbage that individuals throw out of their cars, out of their homes, even when they are a few feet from a garbage can, every day.
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Littering is a rapidly growing epidemic that we, as a species, must face together because the beings that are affected most are unable and unprotected. “It is estimated that there are 13,000 pieces of plastic litter per square kilometer of the world’s oceans.” This is a horrific and unnecessary number. Marine life are being killed all over the world, mistaking garbage as food, such as plastic bags, cans or jugs, balloons, straws, and several other different plastics. They also can become entangled, strangled, or amputated from wires, ropes, and nets. “In 2012, more than 10 million pounds of trash was collected from beaches and waterways in 97 countries during a global cleanup effort.” Even those who do not live in the ocean, but on the seashore are affected. “It is estimated that by 2050, 99% of all species of seabirds will be eating plastic and 95% of all individual seabirds will fall victim to the harmful effects of consuming plastic.” Their home is turning into a garbage dump, their bodies are being mutilated by this garbage, and they cannot even do anything about it. Littering not only affects sea animals, but land creatures as well. They too can ingest trash and the outcome may be poisonous or even deadly. The trash they consume might get stuck in their digestive tract, the plastic consumption would fill their stomachs and give them the sense that they are full, resulting in a slow, painful death by starvation. These harmful effects can also occur in the lakes and rivers where animals drink from. It can be possible that there are chemicals in the water from the waste that can also impact their health negatively.
When people litter they do not think of the lasting effects of the animals, let alone their very own home, the earth. “Approximately 43% of people in the U.S. admit to littering at least once.” Society believes that it won’t make a difference if they litter because the world is so vast and large, however, this is not the case. If every individual believes that they can litter, this quickly adds up to a lot of humans littering, until you have piles and piles of garbage off the coast. Beautiful sandy, white beaches are ruined with a blanket of garbage on top, fields of grass covered with soda cans and empty chip bags. This affects the image of a location as well as costing everyone money in the long run. “Between clean-up efforts, decreases in property values and medical expenses associated with treating illnesses caused by litter, the cost adds up to $11.5 billion each year.”
The future generation will be stuck with the cleanup if we do not do something drastic, and soon. There will be more and more whales being found with several pounds of garbage in their stomachs, there will be less uncontaminated water, less clean spaces, and more sea turtle deaths due to the copious amounts of plastic. “Of the billions of pounds of litter that end up in the world’s waterways, 70% sinks straight to the bottom.” The debris in the water will also degrade to a point where it is not visible to the human eye but sets onto our oysters, clams, and mussels. It will come back to us full circle as we consume these contaminated fish, sea plants and bottom feeders. In my opinion, I believe that there is absolutely no reason to litter.
There is no ethical reasoning behind littering, it does not help the economy or society in any way. There is no argument of why it can be good or have any positive impact compared to other important environmental issues. It is simply a chaotic habit amongst humans that has been taken too far. I also think it is really important for schools and parents to do better in teachings of the negative effects of littering. Their kids are growing up loving sea turtles and dolphins, not knowing the horrendous results of simply throwing garbage on the ground at lunch time will have on them. We only have one earth, and it should be protected and respected.
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