Home Opinion Opinion: Not littering is a small change with a big impact

Opinion: Not littering is a small change with a big impact

7 min read

As spring comes into full effect, more people are outside enjoying the warmer weather. But with this increase of outside activity, one thing to be aware about is where we’re disposing of trash. Not only do we need to be conscious of recycling, but we also need to think about trash we are leaving on the ground. And although littering is illegal, the fines are not very high and many police officers do not frequently search for offenders.

This concept is especially important to remember here at Ohio University. With classes quickly coming to a close and the rising temperatures coming in, I know we’re all enjoying spending time outside. Although fest season is almost over, we all know “the party” isn’t. But before you throw that Miller Light can on the ground, take a moment and think about the repercussions that come with littering.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

We at OU are lucky to live in close proximity to so much nature, from the Hocking River to the numerous forests. These areas include an abundance of animals that could be hurt or even killed by the litter we leave behind. Cans with sharp edges cut animals, and some animals may even get stuck in jars and cans while looking for food. Glass is also highly dangerous; animals could eat glass shards or get cut by broken bottles. Simply thinking about the effects on the environment around you during your next weekend party would help solve the problem.

Photo via Country Life

OU is on the banks of the Hocking River, which flows into the Ohio River, then the Mississippi River and then finally ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. So when we litter, we are not only polluting our own local ecosystem, but also adding to the extensive trash problem in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Hocking is a hot spot for fishing, but many people hurt the environment by leaving old fishing equipment laying around and throwing bottles in the water or leaving them on the banks. Small animals around the river may get tangled in old fishing lines, and many marine animals can get caught in plastic bags or die from eating them. When you’re enjoying your weekend river trips, be courteous to the environment and remember that 8 million metric tons of trash end up in the ocean each year. Make sure you are part of fixing the problem and not adding to the further destruction of our environment.

Photo via Care2

The most common item littering the streets is cigarette butts, making up 50 percent of all litter. Tobacco is toxic to animals and is often eaten by birds, who mistake cigarettes for food. By simply throwing your finished cigarette in an appropriate receptacle, you can cut down on littering and help the environment. Second on the list is food wrappers. This too is a simple fix, as sidewalks are lined with trash cans. Without even going out of your way, you could decrease the amount of trash clogging our streets.

Among these environmental consequences of littering, we need to look at the legal responses. Here in Athens, littering fines are surprisingly small, with the first offense only costing $10. This is only $10 more than an expired meter fine. The maximum fine comes after the fifth offense and is only $100. One would imagine that something so blatantly lazy and an action that harms the environment would result in steeper fines. Alas, even with OU’s nature-filled landscape, littering ranks low on local law enforcement’s’ priorities.

Hopefully in the near future, we will be able to take initiative and make an effort to lessen the littering problem we have. However, if people are incapable of respecting our planet enough to simply throw their own trash away, maybe local police departments will take it upon themselves to be more proactive about litter patrols.

Without complete citizen support, there may also be a need for the fines to be increased in order to provide more incentive for repeat offenders to stop. Littering accounts for a large portion of environmental problems, but it is an easy fix, whether that be on people’s own accord or with the push of law enforcement.  

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