Recently I’ve noticed an increasing amount of litter around Indianapolis. It is distressing to me that some people take so little pride and care so little for this beautiful city and country in which we live.
I am a litter activist. I not only want to encourage people not to discard litter, but I also facilitate a group in my neighborhood of people who gather once a month to pick up litter in the area where I live.
How is Litter Harmful?
Studies show that litter can decrease property values. Littered areas feel abandoned and can make the people who live nearby feel like others don’t care either.
Litter facilitates the spread of disease. Pieces of trash are a breeding ground for diseases, viruses and parasites.
Litter is bad for animals. Often pieces of litter are blown for a distance and end up in waterways where it is mistaken by sea animals for food. They try to eat it and are contaminated or choked and die.
Litter is costly. It costs the city to have the litter cleaned up. It repels potential tourists. People are less likely to want to visit a trashed area.
What Can You Do to Stop Litter?
First, carry a bag in your car for discarding your litter. You get free bags when you get your groceries so attach one of them to your console (insert the handle over your gear shift) and discard trash there. When it is full, discard it in a public trash can or in your trash can at home.
You can encourage your friends and family not to litter. Be an example to children as you pick up litter, allow them to see you volunteer with a group that picks up litter or take them with you as you volunteer.
Let your city officials know that you are concerned about litter. For several years, the council woman for our neighborhood worked with a local halfway house to have litter picked up along a main thoroughfare. We have not been able to get a similar arrangement with our new council person, but it never hurts to try.
Encourage merchants in your neighborhood to pick up litter around their business, have a trash can in front of the business and keeping it emptied. Just a gentle reminder to a merchant such as “I noticed that your trash can is overflowing and I didn’t have a place to put my trash as I entered,” can help. You can also call the corporate office if you notice that the area is consistently trashy. Having trash cans outside of a business and keeping them emptied has been shown to keep the area cleaner.
The More People Who ‘Pitch In,’ the Bigger Difference It Makes
Anti-litter efforts start with you. As you manage your own litter and encourage others not to litter you serve as a role model. As you volunteer with litter pick up efforts in your community and encourage your local officials to help get litter cleaned up, it begins to make a dent in the problem. It also sends a message to the community that we want to maintain a clean neighborhood, so people are less likely to litter. I have seen a difference in my community during the couple of years I have been working with the litter group to keep the community clean.
Phyllis G. Starks is litter pick up coordinator for Millersville Fall Creek Neighborhood Association.