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Liter in America

Updated on October 22, 2010

Litering Our Land


Littering in America has become a much larger problem today than it was twenty years ago.  It is the focus of this paper to possibly raise the awareness of this problem and instill a deep concern for a permanent solution.  Though a permanent solution is far in the future (if at all), every effort of clean up and prevention brings us one step closer to the ultimate goal.

     One of the biggest litter items and most overlooked are cigarette butts.  Millions of people flip their butts on the ground and in our ponds and lakes giving no thought to the fact that they are contributing to the litter problem that has struck America.  Cigarettes are also the leading cause of forest fires by campers and passer byers. 

     According to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006, 32.5% of what was recovered was recycled or composited, 12.5% was burned, and 55% ended up in landfills.  It was reported that a pile of what is being called a “plastic soup” measuring twice the size of the continental United States was found floating in the Pacific Ocean.  Four-fifths of the 100 million tons of trash floating came from land.  An alarming 18% of all discarded trash is reported to end up in our waterways and every 12 minutes, a fire starts because of litter.  (Wilhite, 2010)

    There are laws in every state that protect against littering.  The problem is that most officers view this law as something that can be overlooked.  Very rarely is this law enforced due to the extra paperwork that is involved.  It is considered more of a headache than a help.  In Ohio, where I reside, littering is defined as, any trash thrown, discarded, or dropped by a person onto public, private (not owned by an individual), or in Ohio’s waterways.  This offence is punishable by fines up to $500 and 60 days in jail.  There are other fines and stipulations instituted based on the method and seriousness of the action throughout Ohio, but the goal is the same; Keep our state clean. (Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, 2010)

     In today’s society, we are becoming more “Green”, as it is called.  We, as a society, have formed groups of individuals to walk our roads and highways and pick up the garbage and debris that has been disregarded by uncaring individuals.  Other organizations have gotten involved in the community clean up as well.  Organizations such as local book clubs, honor societies, boy-/cub scouts units and even our national guard is getting involved.  As part of the work release program with the local jails, those who are incarcerated must walk the river banks and roadways and highways while cleaning the areas.  An incorporation of community pride being instilled in what once was considered a plague on society.  Cleaning up America is becoming not only a tradition, but a national event for America. 

     Debris, trash, and cigarette butts aren’t the only types of litter found in America.  Chemical pollutants are another form of litter found in out oceans.  This type of litter isn’t just making our waters look bad, it is killing our wildlife.  Because of the dumps being made by these multi-million dollar companies, the wondrous oceanic creatures that have brought America great pleasure through National Geographic and Discovery episodes are being choked out and poisoned.  Our water fowl are drowning from oil covered wings and pop can rings being caught around their necks and drug under the water by whatever snags the plastic.  Once, we were able to camp by a running stream or a babbling brook, drinking and bathing in the naturally clean water.  Deer and bear would come to the rivers and streams to drink, yet no more. Many communities such as those in Alaska and those bordering the shorelines of places like California depend on these amphibians in order to make their living and provide America with its delicious sea food.  Can you imagine life without Red Lobster?  Long John Silvers?  Fresh Snow or King crab legs purchased from the local grocery store?  My wife would have a fit.  Life with her would be unbearable if she couldn’t have her crab legs and go to Red Lobster.  Men, you know what I’m talking about.  But seriously, pollution and litter are a major problem in America and slowly decreasing. 

     More needs to be done to insure litter and pollution stop.  People need to be better educated on the subject and shown the devastation that is being caused by a simple single discarded piece of paper.  Refinery Companies need stiffer penalties.  If they’d start losing money through fines and possible jail time, as well as environmentally friendly/safe disposal methods incorporated in their plan, these companies would think twice about walking that illegal road again. 

     Some time back, CFC’s were a big problem with air pollution, or littering the air we breathe.  Though, CFC’s have been removed from all aerosol cans on the market, the ozone is still in great danger for depletion.  Smoke stacks of out refineries still have no filtration devices on them to filter out harmful toxins being delivered into our air supply.  These same harmful toxins that slowly kill those who breathe it also harms out ozone layer.  Depletion of the ozone will result in more and more earthquakes, acid storms, tornados, and global warming.  Summer won’t be summer anymore and neither will any of the other seasons.  It will come down to not being able to tell one season from another.  Snow in the summer and 100 degrees in the winter.  Totally unpredictable weather is on the rise unless something is done to stop air pollution.   

     Throughout the research and writing of this paper, I have become more aware of the severity of this problem.  Knowing these situations, I have made a conscience decision to change my habits and do all that I can to keep as much of America clean that I can.  Don’t think that one man can’t make a difference, because he can.  All it takes is the enthusiasm of one person to change the heart of a community. 



      Department of Recycling and Litter Prevention. Retrieved October 03, 2010, from

      Longwood University (2008). Clean Virginia waterways: Cigarette butt litter. Retrieved October 03, 2010, from

      Wilhite, H.A. (2010). The nature conservancy. Retrieved October 03, 2010, from



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