Earth Month 2017 Part 2: Litter is Ugly!

(April is Earth Month!  To help us get in the spirit of sustainability, Anna Dunbar, Recycling and Public Outreach Administrator for the City of Waco Solid Waste Services, shares some tips, expertise and hopes for our community in a series of four blog posts.  For all the posts so far, click hereThanks for writing, Anna! – ABT)

By Anna Dunbar

First, let me start off by saying, we have all seen litter. If you live in the city, you may see it every day. But, just because we see litter around us, does not mean it is OK. It saddens me that we have come to accept litter as a part of our everyday life.

Litter is ugly

That statement is how I begin talking to kids about litter.  All kids know that litter makes a place ugly. Social scientists tell us that people litter in an already littered environment, and they refrain from littering in a pristine environment. Littering happens when plastic bags, cans and broken glass inform us that this is a place where the normative — usual, expected — practice is to litter. We need to change this thought and make everyone who lives, works and visits Waco realize that dropping trash on the ground is not OK. We all need to feel like we would be socially out of step if we littered.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Keep America Beautiful’s 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study identifies individuals as the primary source of litter. Motorists and pedestrians are littering on roads and highways, in downtown business districts, recreational areas, and beaches. Frequently, even areas that have convenient trash containers are littered.  In the clean-up events, litter along streets and in parking areas seems to be associated with fast food, convenience food, and cigarettes, as well as the occasional diaper (ugh!).  Much of litter is small – gum wrappers, receipts, straws, cigarette butts, and fruit peels.  Remember, even stuff you may think is OK (a banana peel) is still waste out of place. The Pogo strip, which became an Earth Day Poster, had a big impact on me as a high school student experiencing my first Earth Day in the early-70’s.  I remember cleaning the school grounds and even cleaning the school’s windows. Unfortunately, Pogo’s words still ring true.

Litter and Its Impact on Our Water

According to the Keep America Beautiful study, storm drains are one of the most littered areas.  Cigarette butts, wrappers, and other litter accumulate in or around storm drains, located primarily in gutters and designed to drain rain from streets, parking lots, and other paved surfaces.  The storm water, which runs off during and after a rain, goes into the storm drain and then through pipes, channels, drainage ways and ditches.  The stormwater carries litter from the curb with it. Sometimes I even see people blowing or dumping leaves and grass clippings into the storm drain. The problem with that is the stormwater and litter eventually reach the Brazos River or Lake Waco. None of the stormwater is treated, cleaned or filtered before it reaches our water where fish, ducks, turtles and aquatic life live.  We can all view the result of this after a rain –floating  trash. I tell kids I visit with, “remember,  only rain in the drain!” We all need to remember that!

What Can We Do?

  • Check with your local neighborhood or homeowner’s association to see when a neighborhood clean-up event will be held in your area. Every Neighborhood Association has access to three cleanup events per year at no charge. These events are usually held in conjunction with Baylor University’s Steppin’ Out program.  Even something as simple as picking up the loose trash on your street makes a big impact and is a great way to get involved with your community.
  • Keep Waco Beautiful (KWB) hosts several programs throughout the year including the Brazos River Cleanup and Neighborhood Cleanups. Participate in the Adopt-A-Spot or Adopt-A-Park program if there is a special area near your home or business that you would like to commit to clean up. Contact Keep Waco Beautiful at (254) 750-5728 or at [email protected]
  • Volunteer with clean-up, plant harvesting, and other events at our local Lake Waco Wetlands.
  • Do your own clean thing! While walking the dog or visiting a park, take a bag for doggie doo and a bag for litter too! Don’t forget that you can recycle plastic bottles that you find.
  • Find like-minded people and organize a clean-up. KWB can help with supplies for that activity. (Note:  A great example of this is the “Group W Bench Litter Patrol” organized by local anti-litter activist, Bruce Huff. – ABT)
  • Set an example! Don’t be careless with your trash and encourage those around you to do the same. Remember, if it is in the back of your pick-up it may blow out during your drive.
  • Can’t get out and help clean-up? Then be a cheerleader (no pompoms required). Applaud and encourage those you see taking charge of the trash around them. Encourage the younger family member to do the right thing.

See an amazing effort? Let KWB know. KWB is hosting its annual awards in May and wants to hear of award worthy efforts. Contact KWB at (254) 750-5728 or at [email protected].

This week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Anna Dunbar. Anna is the Operations  Administrator for the City of Waco Public Works. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a graduate student at Baylor University. She is president of the board of Keep Waco Beautiful and is a member of The Central Texas Audubon Society and Northwest Waco Rotary. If you would be interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected] .  





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