The Downside to Litter
February 27, 2009 8:40 PM Subscribe
My friend and I are having a bit of a debate: Is litter harmful for the environment, society, or other aspects, as I've been led to believe? Legality is not the issue.
posted by mccarty.tim to society & culture (61 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
While eating out at a sandwich place with no indoor seating one night, my friend spilled sauce on his new coat, took a napkin to clean his coat, and angrily tossed the napkin out the car's window. I told him that he shouldn't litter, especially when there's a trash can 10 feet away. He then demanded that I explain why it matters if he, or society at large, littered. I was taken aback as I had never really thought out reasons for it, accepting it to just be a bad thing to do. Thinking hastily, I mentioned broken window theory, animals getting sick from the litter, and it generally making the community look worse. He said I was overstating the impact and/or the chances of each of those things happening, and said that life was too short to worry about litter and that none of his friends in his hometown cared either. To be fair, this was in a suburb of Trenton, NJ, and there aren't really any woods or too many animals nearby. Still, it just felt like he was doing something really wrong, and I was taken aback because he's a very strong democrat and usually is in favor of environmentalist policies. It struck me as at least a bit hypocritical.
Anyway, I decided to google if there were problems with littering, but I mostly found websites listing the legal penalties behind littering, or websites on kitty litter. What are the real, tangible downsides and consequences to littering? I'm not looking for an excuse to litter, as I find it no big deal to find a trash can and act accordingly. Nor am I expecting to find many personal consequences outside of shunning from strangers and tickets from police officers. Rather, I'd like evidence that litter is a serious problem for the environment. Information on urban and suburban littering would be most relevant, although I've seen it's particularly rampant out in the country.