By Christopher Jacobsen
Some people say, “A little litter won’t hurt anyone,” but when it comes to talking about the environment and our economic status, it has a greater impact than once thought.
Making the drive down Route 33, you cannot help but notice the litter scattered across miles of, what use to be, clean land and it’s only getting worse.
An array of bottles, plastic bags, traffic cones, car parts, shredded tires, garbage cans and even an umbrella or two tarnish to landscape covering Route 33 and many other roads and highways.
This inconsiderate dumping of waste is not only turning the landscape to a pile of rubble, but it could also be turning away potential businesses.
On PennDOT’s website they write, “Litter discourages economic development because it impacts real estate values. Good stores and important businesses will not locate in a community which lacks the pride to effectively control litter.”
Businesses do not want to be associated with a community whose moral standards on littering is “don’t worry about it” or “someone will eventually clean it up”, however, what people don’t understand is that businesses, small and large, pay hundreds of dollars keeping their property clean from debris and would rather go somewhere without it.
Litter, like cigarette butts, become an extreme fire hazard when dropped on the ground, which turns businesses away due to elevated risk of potential fire damage.
“Fires started by dropped or dumped litter cause millions of dollars of damage every year,” PennDOT wrote.
Residents within a littered community also suffer from the effects, not only because they are paying for it, but also because it affects their health and their morale.
“When an area has a litter problem, its residents don’t want to spend time there, meaning an area becomes uncared for, community spirit suffers and as a result people’s wellbeing and health suffer,” wrote the Kingdom Services Group.
And did you know that litter increases the rate of crimes in an area?
“Studies show people are more likely to break the rules when there’s litter on the ground or graffiti on buildings. The rate of theft, vandalism and other crimes all go up,” wrote Lynne Villemaire in an Ezlandlord forms article.
Littering is illegal and might not seem like that serious of a crime. However, it could lead to bigger crimes because some will see litter as an unenforced law. It’s like a test ground, the more litter there is, the more likely that no one does something about it.
In her article, Villemaire compares litter to the Broken Window Theory, which states that if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, all the rest will soon follow, but by maintaining order, in this case not littering, it will help reduce crime.
Not only does litter affect our economic status as a “clean state,” drives businesses away and increase crime rates. It also costs millions of taxpayer dollars to clean up and doesn’t generate new jobs – it just adds on to what workers must do.
PennDOT takes care of government roads, like highways and main roads, but the counties, municipalities and townships must set aside a budget for street and litter cleanup, which is eventually used up before the end of the month, causing them to either increase taxes or leave the trash and hope for the best.
Also, the impact that littering has on the environment is so devastating, an entire twenty-page paper could be written about it and still barely scratch the surface on the issues.
So, what can we do to help?
PennDOT has the Adopt-A-Highway program, where groups could take on the responsibilities of a piece of land for them to clean up. We could also have volunteer groups to clean the highways and roadways for volunteer hours. Lastly, we can also be environmentally-friendly and not throw our trash out the window.
We only have one planet, so think about that before you litter.
And for a realization on how litter impacts our environment, visit http://www.cvwma.com/storage/File/litter_decomp.pdf for more details.