Why Do We Litter

Some of the Lions that participated in PITCH-In from left to right are: Marty Hawkins, Bob Reddick, Kim Kelly, Pat Reddick, April Baird, Julie-Anne Baird, community volunteers Linda and Peter Minnelli and Lion Jim McGlade.

Westport Lions Roar

By Lion Bob Reddick

Any walker or cyclist knows there is lots of garbage alongside area roads. It is difficult to appreciate the extent of the problem until you get down in the ditch to collect it.  

On Saturday, April 30, the Westport Lions and community volunteers, Linda and Peter Minnelli, collected 22 bags of garbage and numerous beer cans between 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.  

In addition to this two-hour effort, over three weeks, the above-mentioned people, plus Lions Joanne Norris, Wayne Sherwood, Dave Blair, Michael Harris and community volunteers Donna Roth and Deborah Beckett picked up more garbage for a total of 41 bags and 280 beer cans. 

What is even more astounding is that the 41 bags of debris were picked up in 1.6 km. on the Salem Road, 1.4 km. on Grady Road, 1.2 km. on number 10 north, and 3 km. on 36, 4 km. on Noonan Road and a short distance on Sunnyside Road.  

Research shows that litter affects people’s feelings of well-being and safety. It ruins people’s experience when walking, biking, boating, hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Animals suffer too. Trash can spread disease and cause dietary and internal problems for animals. 

Why do people litter?  

Carelessness and laziness are the main reasons people throw rubbish anywhere without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Many people do not realize or underestimate the negative impacts of littering on the environment. People believe that their actions will not harm society. Perhaps they believe that others will clean up after them. 

The answer to the problem is a change in attitude. If we could convince people not to litter, our quality of life would increase, and it would put money in our pockets. How many people have mentioned to you that one of the things they enjoy about Canada is how clean it is?  

Organizing a day or a couple of weeks of picking up garbage is not a solution to the problem of littering. How do we get people not to throw out their plastic water bottles, coffee cups, cigarette butts, pop and beer cans and garbage on the street or out the window of their vehicle? 

What are some possible solutions?

Education is a vital tool to help reduce littering. Educating adults and children on the proper disposal of trash and the detrimental effects caused by littering is vital to help reduce litter. According to a Keep American Beautiful Incorporated study, “Most littering behaviour—81%—occurred with notable intent. This included dropping (54%), flick/fling of the item (20%), and other littering with notable intent (7%).” 

Please take a small garbage bag in your vehicle to place litter in and dispose of with your home garbage.

Next time you see someone throwing litter, politely say to them, “I would really appreciate it if you would place your garbage in a container.” Or, if you are not comfortable confronting them, you could meet them halfway by saying, “If you pick that up, I will put it in the garbage for you.” Or look them straight in the eye, do not say a word and pick up the item. Hopefully, you will shame them to be a better citizen in the future. 

Try to catch someone throwing their garbage in a container or picking up litter. It is always better to reinforce positive behaviour. Make sure you thank them; it will make both of you feel great.

Make sure your trash is secure. Lightweight waste materials often blow away before they can be placed in receptacles and often blow out of vehicles and the backs of trucks. 

Participate in community clean-up days. What better way to teach your kids or your grandchildren the importance of keeping our environment clean? Rideau Lakes township provides yellow garbage bags to all township residents to pick up garbage along local roads from April 17 to 30. The village of Westport organized a clean-up day on May 7. The Westport Lions PITCH-In day and these other initiatives are rewarding and enjoyable when you do them with friends.  

Recycling materials instead of littering can save natural resources, landfill space, energy, and clean air and water. This will benefit both your local community and the overall environment. According to Toronto’s solid waste division, there is more than “one thousand tonnes of waste from coffee cups and other paper beverage cups collectively generated by Toronto’s single-family households each year.” 

The ideal way to handle the problem of littering is for each member of society to take responsibility and try their best to properly dispose of waste. The presence of existing garbage acts like a trigger and gives the impression that it’s the right place to litter. As the existing debris attracts more litter, removing garbage frequently and promptly may help to discourage people from littering. So, the next time you are about to toss litter or leave garbage in a public space, please take a second to think of the consequences.  

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