Litter: Part 2

By Zack Hersh
“Travel and Leisure” recently named Philadelphia the sixth dirtiest city in the United States in 2012. While this is progress since being named the second dirtiest city in 2011, our city still has a long way to go.

Since my last blog post, a lot of new information on the topic of litter has emerged. Some of it confirms that we are starting to move in the right direction, but some also shows us that litter is still an ever present problem at a local and national level.

Plastic bags are a terrible form of litter. Animals may mistake them for food and eat them. They fly everywhere, get stuck in trees, and you never know where they could end up. In an attempt to reduce the number of littered plastic bags, many cities and countries, including San Francisco, Mexico City, and Ireland have put a ban on the distribution of plastic bags in some way. This may be a tax on plastic bags, or a regulation on how many plastic bags shopping centers may be allowed to have or distribute. This should help to reduce the amount of littered plastic bags or plastic bags in general, and deter people from using them. Most people are supportive of a ban.

To get a more personal level on the issue of litter, I conducted a survey as original research. This also justified that while litter is still a big problem, we are starting to move in the right direction.

Out of the 52 people that took the survey, only 31% of them have never littered in some way. And only 33% of the people that took the survey said that they never litter! While this isn’t good, if you know that you litter, you can try to stop. Nobody said that they litter all of the time, but 9 people admitted to littering sometimes or often. However, what was really astounding is that only 10 of the people that took the survey didn’t know somebody who litters.  That means that 42 of 52 people know at least one person who litters! Of those, 8 people know a teacher who litters! Teachers are supposed to be our role models, and if they are littering, then we have a real problem.

Probably the most important question I asked on this survey was what people thought should be done to fight against this problem. The number one response was “put in more trash cans and recycling bins”, over “organize pickups” and “raise awareness”,

and I can relate to this on a personal level. On a walk to the Franklin from SLA one day, I had a piece of trash in my pocket and I was looking for a trash ca to throw it out, and for the entire walk, I saw only 1 trash can, and it was right outside the Franklin. I definitely agree that adding more trash cans and recycling bins could reduce the amount of litter in our city.

After this survey, I still don’t understand people’s motives for littering. On my survey, 12 people said they thought that raising awareness was the best way to help with the problem, and I agree here also. I think if poeple who litter knew how bad it was, they would think twice befor littering.

As for my agent of change, I have many ideas for things that I could do. I’m thinking of doing a litter pickup, but I also think that raising awareness, or raising money for organizations, or for the city could be equally effective.

But you can also do your part. Talk to people you know that litter. Pick up litter when you see it. But most importantly, don’t litter in the first place.

For my bibliography, click here.