EARTHWATCH: Why Canyon Clean-Up?
by Jody Dickson
Did you know that the popular “Don’t Mess With Texas” slogan came from a 30-year-old campaign to reduce littering along Texas’ highways? In honor of Canyon Clean Up that the CCCIA hosts twice a year, I’m dedicating this issue of Earthwatch to talk about litter. While visible roadside litter is significantly down in the past several decades in the US, litter and littering behavior remains a persistent problem. Plus, unfortunately, simply with more population growth there will be more waste and thus more litter.
While commonly thought of the waste you see on the side of the road, litter is any waste that is not disposed of properly. Litter isn’t just visually unappealing. Waste that is not properly contained and disposed of results in things like the island of trash in the Pacific Ocean that is 9 ft deep and twice the size as the state of Texas. It isn’t hard to imagine the environmental damage of litter amassed at that scale. However, the vast majority of litter even along the roads is small stuff that is not visible while driving by it. The most common forms of litter are food/organic material, cigarette butts and small pieces of paper.
Litter can disrupt the balance of many ecosystems.
Toxins from the waste materials can seep into the soil and water. Litter can be carried through local waterways which affects areas greater than where the litter might have originally been left. This litter can contaminate groundwater, and organic litter can result in increased algal blooms which can reduce oxygen for the fish and other life in the water. Animals can intentionally or unintentionally eat these materials as well which can make them sick or even kill them. While it might seem that food waste is okay to throw out into nature in order to decompose (or feed the animals) in truth, the conditions may not be right for decomposition. Outside of the obvious risk of fire by throwing out lit cigarette butts, they also contain harmful chemicals, and at large quantities can be very harmful to the environment. Cigarette butts take 10 years to decompose.
Help us keep our canyon community beautiful and clean by first and foremost not littering in the first place. Then, please pick up trash as you find it, and participating in Canyon Clean Up in the spring and fall (see below). The presence of litter sends a message that people don’t care about our community which is not true at all about our community.
We are watching: TED Talks have been very popular over the recent years. They have a wide variety of compelling content that viewers typically deeply appreciate. While Earth Day was last month, we’ve been enjoying this playlist of TED talks about the environment: http://blog.ted.com/12-talks-to-watch-this-earth-day/ It raises awareness several different environmental themes, actions and opportunities. I promise there is something for everyone in this series.