10 Effects of Littering on Animals and Environment

If you have ever driven down the highway, took a walk along the lakeshore or even walked through the city streets, you have seen littering firsthand. Discarded waste either on purpose or by accident, littering is an eyesore to the natural beauty, but it has many more serious consequences that impact the environment and animals alike.

So, the next time you consider throwing a piece of trash on the ground or not picking up after yourself, remember these astounding facts about the effects of littering and the impact you could potentially be making.

So, here are ten effects of littering on animals and the environment:

  • Nine billion tons of litter end up in the oceans each year. This mind-blowing number doesn’t include the amount of trash that does make it into the garbage. It is hard to wrap your head around what nine billion pounds of trash would look like.
  • Litter from food and drinks can increase the likelihood of animal encroachment and even attacks. Animals are in constant search of food and when we litter our food waste, the animals become intrigued and venture further and further from their natural habitats.
  • Trash on roads and highways can lead to accidents. Swerving to miss trash while driving can be an extremely dangerous situation.
  • Nearly 40% of roadway litter is comprised of tobacco products and the littering rate for cigarette butts is over 60%. This is a large percentage of users may be attributed to the fact that many smokers do not consider cigarette butts as pieces of litter.
  • The time that various materials take to decompose can be the most shocking statistic regarding litter and the impact on the environment. Here is a look at some of the most common litter items and how long they take to decompose-
    • Plastic bags- 100-1000 years
    • Plastic bottles- over 450 years
    • Aluminum cans- 80-200 years
    • Glass- while it can easily be melted down and recycled, glass can take up to a million years to fully decompose.
    • Cigarette butts- 10-12 years
    • Plywood- 1-3 years
    • Painted Wood- 13 years
    • Cardboard- 2 months
    • Lumber- 10-15 years
  • Plastic materials that enter the water systems can have serious consequences on marine life. Animals can consume small pieces that will break down in their systems and release toxins that are then consumed by people. Also, marine life can be asphyxiated in plastic bags, wrap or 6-pack rings.
    Plastic debris floating on the ocean surface, shot underwater.
  • Land animals are also impacted by littering. Poisoning from spoiled food, food wrappers and containers that can be ingested or contaminated water can be consumed. These instances can lead to sickness, internal health problems or even death for the unlucky animals that find themselves confronted with human garbage.
  • Fire hazards are another major concern. Paper and plastics tend to be extremely flammable and will easily ignite causing a fire. Also, littering of cigarette butts is another major concern for fires.
  • When organic waste enters the aquatic environment, algal blooms will occur. These sudden outbursts of algae create a carpet-like layer on the surface of the water that chokes out other vegetation, prevents oxygen from diffusing into the water and some types may even produce toxins.
  • Many items that are littered contain harmful chemicals that are manmade and toxic to living organisms and can contaminate the water table.

It’s very easy to see the consequences that littering has on the environment. Proper waste management and recycling efforts can greatly reduce the amount of litter produced and the impact that it has on the environment.

If your business does not have a comprehensive recycling system in place, let us help! Consolidated Resources, Inc. has been serving the Valley for nearly 30 years by providing businesses with specific recycling solutions that range from custom-built storage containers to access the best prices on the market for your materials. To learn more about how we can help your business save money and make an impact, contact us today.