Who's responsible for litter? YOU!
Who, me? Yes! YOU ....... and me.
Years after the Litter Bug and Crying Indian campaigns of the 70's, we still have litter. I find this unbelievable, and think WE are the problem.
People litter because we allow them to. As long as we don't expect it to be different or speak up in some way to say litter is unacceptable, nothing will change. There are many problems in the world complicated to solve, but litter isn't one of them
Littering laws that are rarely enforced, despite the fact litter cleanup costs our nation about $11.5 billion per year. This is a huge waste of money that could be much better spent.
Until people learn to toss their trash where it belongs, we need to continue picking up after them. However, at the same time we need to educate about the problems of litter. Lots of people don't even think cigarette butts are litter. They have no idea where all this litter goes or how it affects local communities and the planet as a whole. They have no idea their litter ends up in the Pacific Garbage Patch or the newly discovered Atlantic Garbage Patch.
If people want to litter: FINE! Announce we will begin to enforce the litter laws and issue citations that could fund litter-prevention education. Just like there are traffic schools for drivers, there can be litter schools with Trash Talk Classes for litterers where they could learn the importance of pitching in to keep the community clean.
Any bad habit takes a while to break. To encourage good will and get people used to the idea of using the garbage can we could have Green Ambassadors. They could kindly remind people there are fines, and give them a friendly warning, with a bag to use to tote their trash, possibly printed with litter facts. I think people would care if they knew the danger it poses to people, pets and wildlife. A man in my town had to have his toe amputated after stepping on broken glass on the beach. I'm sure if the person who left their bottle behind had any idea of the consequences of their action they would have made a difference choice.
I think mostly this is a very unconscious act. Most people don't think it's a big deal and are offended and defensive if you say something. Years ago, I used to say something directly to the litterer. But, these days, confrontation is dangerous and does NOT work. Then, I tried handing them their trash and saying, "You must have dropped this." This approach doesn't work either because they know what you're really saying.
Here's my NEW approach. If I see someone litter I walk over, pick up the object and nicely ask their permission to take it. Of course they say they don't mind and back off like I'm crazy. I take the object -- maybe take a picture of it first -- smile and sincerely say "Thank you" and hand them this card:
Then I walk away. If you can't see the back clearly in this post it gives info about how long it takes things to decompose. I am hoping that with no pressure on them of confrontation or being blamed and made 'wrong' they'll read it and think about the facts. Education is the key. And we have to reach litterers in a way they will be open to receive the information.
PS. FREE Thank You Cards are available on Museum of Litter homepage.