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The Growing Problem of Littering in The United States

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Littering is a growing issue in the United States (U.S.) that is not discussed very often, it is a topic that is frequently ignored but at the rate that it is increasing it can no longer be ignored and desperately needs to be discussed. Littering is a long-term problem with unfavorable consequences that will not only affect us in the coming years, but will affect our future children and grandchildren. Littering has always been a major issue around the world, especially in impoverished countries due to lack of trash receptacles and lack of littering laws. The trash will continue to rise and the high cleanup costs will continue to increase as the years progress. According to Conserve Energy Future, a blog that discusses littering as well as global warming, pollution, and other issue they claim that “The most frequent littered stuff include fast food packaging, cigarette butts, used drink bottles, chewing gum wrappers, broken electrical equipment parts, toys, broken glass, food scraps or green wastes.” The perspective people have on littering needs to change because if we keep the same attitude we once had more ecosystems will continue to fail, it will pollute the air more than it already is, and it will hurt the economy more when all is said and done.

Certain states in the U.S. are more likely to litter than others, the reasons may be certain festivals or concerts in the city, how much construction is constantly being done in a particular area, and even how high the rate of homelessness is in particular locations.

Laziness makes it very easy for a citizen to litter. It has always been a growing trend, and most citizens would rather throw their trash on the floor or out the window of their car rather than going out of their way for a trash can and disposing of it properly. Age is also a big factor when it comes down to this. Litter, it costs you states that, “According to a national study, those between the ages of 18-34 deliberately litter. And the most common object found during a clean-up is fast food litter.”

Many citizens lack the education when it comes to littering in the U.S. and many have the mindset that there will be little to no consequences when they only “litter a little bit”, or “I don’t litter as much as others”. If a majority of people in the U.S. had this mindset every day for a couple of years, the amount of litter that would pile up would be unfathomable. According to Ashley May from USA Today she says “Even though smoking rates are down nationally, tobacco trash is among the most frequently littered items in America.”

Often times heavy littering is traced back to highly populated cities in the U.S. with constant construction projects or cities with concerts, raves, and festivals. Laura Parker from National Geographic states that “Building and construction produces over 72 million tones of plastic.” Raves and festivals are usually aimed at the teen demographic and Katie Bain from LA Weekly claims that “Music festivals are environmental disasters. And that festivals such as Coachella, EDC, and Lollapalooza don’t make big efforts to be green, and that recycling and trash bins are confusingly labeled which results in piled high garbage.”

Littering in the long-run is slowly going to increase the destruction of the Earth, it’s ecosystem, wild life, oceans, and humans in the end. Litter also facilitates disease, trash can collect multiple diseases and can become contaminated and once it reaches the ocean or other ways of it affecting us that’s when we can begin getting sick, animals may also begin to die off or get very sick if they eat this. Conserve Energy Future says, “Toxic chemicals and disease causing microorganisms in the trash may also contaminate water systems and spread water-borne diseases if animals or humans consume the water.”

Air pollution and water pollution is also problem caused due to littering, Cigarette Butts are one of the highest source of litter, along with Aluminum Cans and Plastic Bags. Clean Water Future states that “It causes a variety of problems to the ecosystem as it enters our streams, rivers and bays, and that most of the litter found is single-plastic food and cardboard trash. And that this litter almost to never biodegrades and are very harmful to animals living there (Litter Pollution)”. Most of the litter just sits there and collects and will continue to pill up as the years progress.

As everything continues to happen, we still continue to clean up the mess with high costing annual clean ups. This is a lot of money going down the drain for no reason, we make a mess and clean it and continue the cycle with not getting better at trying to reduce littering. Adopt-A-Highway states that “Litter clean-up costs the U.S. more than $11.5 billion annually”. That is an outrageous amount of money to clean up litter and there is no reason why it should be that high. The U.S. could use that money to pay for school education or other things that need to be fixed and instead it’s being used to clean up fast food containers and cigarette butts.

Hopefully sometime in the near future we can unite to do something about this problem that faces our country. The problem will continue to rise and will not stop until we’re suffering from air pollution or we see heaps of garbage everywhere we turn. This is not a problem we should be facing as a country of the 21st century with the amount of intellect and resources we have.

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The Growing Problem Of Littering In The United States. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
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