Growing up, it was “Don’t be a litterbug!” As a teacher, I taught, “Give a hoot. Don’t pollute.” Even today, the mantra continues: “Keep America beautiful!” But is anybody listening? On a recent Sunday drive, I couldn’t help but notice all the trash along the highways. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. What’s with all the litter?
In fact, littering has decreased by 54% in the last decade. However, it remains a troublesome problem. Since the pandemic, personal protective equipment like masks and gloves have added to the ongoing litter issue. Not only does litter detract from the beauty of nature, but it can also negatively affect people, plants, and animals, too.
A 2020 study conducted by the folks at “Keep America Beautiful” served as a follow-up to the comprehensive 2009 national initiative on litter. Conducted during the COVID pandemic, the research team and others across the country picked up half a billion pounds of litter and debris. They recycled more than 250 million pounds of the material found along half a million miles of roadways, trails, and waterways. That’s a lot of litter!
Litter is more than just an eyesore. Litter has very real consequences that can affect us at local, regional, and even national levels. Trash and debris along our community streets and roadways can negatively impact local economic development. It’s costly for municipalities to clean up, as well.
Litter along heavily traveled roadways can also lead to accidents. Swerving your RV to avoid hitting trash on the road can be very dangerous, both to you and the other drivers near you. Running over trash can be just as hazardous.
Confection trash like food and drink leftovers, candy wrappers, and other food-source litter can impact animals, too. This kind of debris attracts animals in search of food. Animals that find food in populated areas will venture farther and farther from their original habitats. This isn’t good for the animals or for the community’s safety.
Litter can eventually end up in our nation’s waterways and the world’s oceans. Researchers estimate that more than one million animals die each year after becoming trapped in or sickened by ingesting litter. Many of these deaths are marine animals and reptiles.
How to help
Instead of simply bemoaning the trashed highways, city streets, and even parks where we RV, each person can help alleviate the problem of litter. Here are a few suggestions.
- Set an example. Teach your children and grandchildren the importance of putting trash in its place. Don’t toss trash on the ground. Dispose of it properly. Never toss cigarettes or any trash out of your car window.
- Keep lids tight. Make sure your trash can lid fits securely—even in gusts of wind. Tell your camp host or ranger if you notice broken, missing, or loose lids that should be replaced.
- Pick it up! If you see litter, pick it up. It’s usually best not to confront strangers in the campground about their littering. Instead, in a friendly, helpful manner, let them know where trash receptacles are located throughout the campground.
- Speak up. If you see a dumpster that needs attention in the campground, tell the park manager. Also, speak to them if you see other campers that continue to willfully litter.
Do you notice more litter along our roadways lately? Take our poll then leave a comment below.