Why do people litter even though they know it is wrong?

Many friends, families, neighbours and co-workers came together last week to help with keeping our environment clean

Sylvan Lake News columnist Leanne Bertram shares her experience participating in the community clean up



Many friends, families, neighbours and co-workers came together last week to help with keeping our environment clean taking time out of their busy schedules to help out with the picking of litter during Sylvan’s annual Pitch In Week.

It is nice to see so many doing their part in creating a cleaner, greener community. Picking up litter on nature trails, along the lake, beside the roadways, in empty lots and parks. Whether you were only able to help out for 20 minutes, by getting involved you are making a positive impact on our environment and what you do truly makes a difference.

Many people don’t realize that sometimes it’s our day to day actions that can have the greatest impact on the environment.

What is litter? Whenever waste is not properly disposed of, it is considered litter. Litter is found everywhere and includes everything from candy wrappers,pieces of paper,pop cans and even cigarette butts.

While I was participating in Pitch In Week, I couldn’t help but wonder, why do people litter? Are they really that lazy? Is it accidental or do they just not care? Attitudes maybe? Are there really no garbage bins accessible?

Just thinking of how long it takes for these items to decompose is enough to keep me from littering:

Cigarette butts, 15 years

Plastic grocery bags, 100 years

Disposable diaper, 450 years

Aluminium can, 200 to 500 years

Styrofoam Cup, 1000 years

Plastic Bottle, up to 1 million years

Glass bottle, 1 million years

The benefits of picking up littering, as well as not littering in the first place are endless. You are protecting animals, fish, birds, and plant life from the risks that trash bring. You are sending a message to others that you care about your surroundings and people should not discard their unwanted items just anywhere. You are leading by example, instilling positive change eventually more people will start to help.

On Friday of last week I was out with my family picking up litter along Memorial Drive. And what item did I pick up the most of? If you guessed cigarette butts you are correct.

Did you know that cigarette butts are one of the most littered item in the world?

Globally, approximately 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year. In most Western countries cigarette butt litter accounts for around 50% of all litter. Almost 1 in 3cigarette butts end up as litter and it can take up to 12 years for a cigarette butt to break down.

Cigarette butts can leach chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into our marine environment within an hour of contact with water and have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals which leads to ingestion of hazardous chemicals and digestive blockages

Fire season is upon us, please dispose of your butts responsibly. Proper disposal is important.

We all need to generate less waste, reuse and recycle more often.