This weekend I took a trip to Bush Park near downtown Salem. The park is filled with running paths, green grass to run in, tennis courts, and a stream that not many people know about. My husband, my dog and I went off the typical path to a little spot we like. There is a running stream to dip our feet (or paws) in that is quite a serene setting. Although, once we got to the stream I couldn’t relax and enjoy the view because all I noticed were the plastic jugs and litter stuck in the bushes or floating down the moving water way.

Garbage/products that can be thrown away or recycled do not belong in streams, lakes, grasses, near highways, or on the ground. So off I went with a garbage bag I found in the car and waded through the stream to find:

  • a soggy shoe,
  • a ketchup packet,
  • a sunny delight plastic bottle,
  • an empty cigarette package,
  • a label without it’s bottle,
  • an empty vodka plastic bottle,
  • a sock,
  • a chunk of vinyl (from a car?)
  • and a few more odd items left behind.

I managed to fill an entire large garbage bag within a few minutes of walking a couple yards through the stream. What a disappointment I had in the people of Oregon. Don’t we all want a clean place to live? Why would anyone leave a bottle floating in the stream for a volunteer or a city worker (aka: workers we pay with our own tax dollars) to “take care of it?”

From eHow Plastic Pollutants in Oceans

Why do people litter when there are clearly many places available to put your trash or recycling? According to Keep America Beautiful:

  • About 85% of littering is the result of individual attitudes. Changing individual behavior is key to preventing litter.
  • A strong contributor to littering is the prevalence of existing litter.  About 15% of littering is affected by the environment. Litter on the ground begets more litter.

Some individual perspectives think that littering is okay and do not understand how large of an impact our waste is having on the environment. Everyone has a responsibility to not litter.The effects are not just an eye sore, but are harmful to wildlife that live in the littered environment.

Discarded fishing lines can trap the legs, wings, or neck of waterfowl such as swans or moorhens. A fishhook may get stuck in a bird’s throat. Water birds suffer lead poisoning when they accidentally swallow small lead fishing weights. Broken glass can cut the feet of foxes, coyotes, or badgers, and unbroken bottles present a hazard to various small animals. Lizards often crawl inside bottles or cans to bask warm interior, to seek protection or search for food; but they may find it difficult to squeeze out again and can die of overheating. Small mammals in search of food often get their heads caught in the openings of jars… Birds, fish, and mammals may be ensnared by plastic six-pack holders.

Here are some tips to help with littering:

  • If you see litter, pick it up.
  • It you see someone litter , especially cigarette butts  (which are one of the most littered items), ask them politely to put it in the trash or ask them if you can throw/recycle their litter for them. Or perhaps you can remind them that littering in Oregon is a Class A misdemeanor, with a fine up to $6,250 or imprisonment for one year or both.
  • Volunteer in your community to pick up litter.
  • Educate kids about litter and how they can help create a clean environment.
  • Think about the community around you. The National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study found that “litter in a community decreases property values 7%“.

If we want streams to swim in, grass to roll around on, oceans where fish live, and a clean community we should remind each other of the importance of keeping it free of trash. Be a leader and pass on the idea and attitude that cleaning up after yourself is the best practice and an easy way to have a beautiful environment around you.



Other Resources to Check Out:

Keep America Beautiful-Great PDF Links on the Sidebar

Protecting Wildlife From Trash

The Green Garbage Project-One family’s website of living without trash for one year. There are great links, a blog and lots of information on this site.

Your Roadside Litter Kills Animals

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