Littering is one of the most widespread issues of the world. It occurs in ever continent, every country, every area. Even places that are not inhabited are struggling with litter – including our oceans, and the Arctic/Antarctic, with the area containing the most litter/waste being Mount Everest which is littered with not only old, broken equipment, but also bodies and human excrement (all of which is washed into the local rivers as the glacier move downhill and melt.
Some people are fully aware that they are littering – such as dumping waste of the side of boats in the open ocean (just because there are no laws against this in the international waters it doesn’t mean it should be done!). While many are unconsciously littering, or simply not thinking before they do.
Littering seems almost commonplace in areas without obvious litter bins, where people will just throw waste on the floor as an almost normal reaction. Children are sometimes seen encouraged to do so by parents, or teenagers throwing litter on the floor for convenience rather than walking to the bin. In many schools, they have been trying to combat this by giving community-service-type punishments of litter picking (with a litter picker and binbag) which gives the pupils a sense of achievement and shows them the effort it takes to put the environment back to its original state (before they littered it). Hopefully this lesson is also taken with them outside of the school environment – although with adults littering around them this effect will be reduced.
One of the worst types of littering (in my opinion) is when dog walkers leave bags of dog faeces hanging on trees or gates, or fences. What are they achieving by doing so? This is so much worse than leaving the excrement on the floor for the rain to wash away! The bag will not disintegrate for at least a decade! In that time the faeces will be stuck inside the plastic, possibly going moldy while on view for everyone to smell and see. If people are going to take the effort to pick up their dog’s excrement, then they can make the effort to carry it to a bin to dispose of it properly. In many areas there are fines in place to prevent dog faeces being left on the ground – so possibly by containing it in the first place the owners are hoping to avoid the fine by completing the least effort possible, which is neither useful, hygienic, or intelligent.
In some countries, it is now illegal to litter from your car. This is a massive improvement, as the buffer zones (grassland beside larger roads such as motorways) are often not cleared up by councils until the area is unsightly. In this time, the litter could have claimed the lives of animals living in the grassland. Cars have many places to put waste, including cup holders, glove pockets and door pockets. It is not necessary for people to throw litter from their cars when all service stations and eating areas have bins to place their rubbish in when they stop.
Cigarette butts also litter the streets, beaches, fields…… and basically anywhere that smokers congregate or walk. You can find large piles of cigarette butts in areas where people have picnicked, where they were waiting for public transport, or outside public buildings at designated smoking area. In the smoking areas, a cigarette butt bin is usually provided, yet there are always cigarette butts littering the floor (despite the bin not being full). “Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic.” (http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/cigbuttbiodegradable.htm) Different types of cigarette filter can take different lengths of time to decompose from 18 months to 10 years, depending on the plastic composite in that specific cigarette brand. There are a number of cigarette butt bins available, and if not, well there’s always the portable ashtrays that have plenty of room to fit in cigarette ash and filters until they get to a cigarette bin.