Tips on how to reduce and stop littering

Topics Discussed

What is littering?

Littering can be defined as incorrectly discarding of waste at unsuitable or incapable locations. Freely discarding of waste in public places that are not capable of recycling or breaking down materials is an example of littering (e.g. throwing a plastic bottle into the ocean).

Some common waste items include:

  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic bottles
  • Food packaging 
  • Cigarette butts
  • Aluminon cans
  • Plastic straws and stirrers

Litter is problematic to the environment since it remains in the environment for a long period of time before breaking down (if ever). Waste in communities may lead to health issues as a result of the bacteria and vermin that it creates / attracts. 

Litter also poses great danger to both land and animal wildlife. Plastic waste, for example, often breaks down forming tiny particles referred to as microplastics. These microplastics are ingested by smaller creatures, mistaking them for food. These chemically rich particles cause adverse health conditions all the way through the food chain, as smaller creatures are consumed by larger creatures or even humans. 

litter waste beach

Tips to to prevent and reduce litter

Avail of recycling bins and recycling services

Recycling waste as opposed to littering helps to preserve natural resources, reduce landfill pollution, and keep oceans clean. Recycling also helps to prevent air pollution as well as saving energy that would normally be necessary to produce new materials.

As with all waste containers, make sure that all waste areas are securely closed in order to prevent the spread of waste or vermin infestation.

Avoid single use plastic items and buy eco friendly products

Some examples of single-use plastic items with regard to the time it takes them to decompose (rates may vary depending on the material and environmental conditions) include:

Single-use plastic bags (high-density polyethylene):

Can take up to 100 years before they decompose (different environmental factors contribute to the speed at which decomposing occurs)

Single-use plastic straws:

Can take up to 500 years to decompose

Single-use plastic bottles (polyethylene terephthalate):

Can between 450 – 1,000 years to decompose

Plastic straws:

Can take up to 500 years to decompose

Single-use plastic utensils:

Can take up to 1,000 years to decompose

Read more about the time it takes plastic to break down, if at all, here.

Start a compost (at home)!

Benefits of composting include:

Composting helps to reduce pollution since methane emissions from landfills do not occur

Composting enriches soil, helping it to retain moisture and repels against rodents and pests

Composting helps to encourage the growth of beneficial fungi and bacteria (creating humus, a rich nutrient-filled material)

Composting eradicates the need of chemical fertilizers, resulting in cleaner, healthier and more organic produce  

Some considerations before starting your composting journey include: 

Where do you plan to compost?

Which waste types do you plan to compost? 

What are your intentions and expectations from composting?

Read more about the different types of composting methods here.

Participate in community cleaning events

Community members are brought closer together in an effort to reduce local waste and make local areas cleaner and safer. Such events can assure meeting like-minded members of the community and are often very rewarding.

Cleaning events also help to create a sense of responsibility within the community, i.e. when others see people looking after the environment, it may convince more local people to do the same and also take part.

Young children may also benefit from such events, which may help to educate and inform them about their social and environmental responsibility from a young age. 

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