Last Friday, the second litter clean-up day was held at La Trobe university. Litter-busting volunteers included those from the Microbiology, Zoology and Ecology departments as well as some RED team members. We focused on car parks at the university to see where the litter begins as staff and students enter the uni to start their hard-working day. The good news is we collected a lot of litter and really cleaned up the car parks. The bad news is, we collected a lot of litter. Even at the ‘cleanest’ site, our collectors were able to find over 50 pieces of trash without breaking a sweat – at the worst site upwards of 250 pieces of trash were collected! (Figure 1)
So what rubbish were we finding? In line with our previous rubbish-collecting efforts, cigarette butts and lolly wrappers featured prominently, but this time we noticed a high incidence of rubbish from take away food (Figure 2).
In fact there was a high correlation (r = 0.91) between take away food and discarded plastic (recyclable) drink containers and bottles which makes sad sense, as the two go hand-in-hand (Figure 3). Everyone eats on the go, and no-one likes the smell of left-over take-away food getting into your car upholstery, but cleaning your car by dumping your trash into the carpark is not OK.
In total, 1 entire bin was filled with trash and ½ of a recycling bin was filled with very easy to dispose of recyclables (like a water bottle). Would we seriously throw a water bottle in the middle of our living room so it could sit there for many years to come? Or would we throw it in a bin?
So the question really is, why are we not throwing away our trash? Perhaps the answer is not that we are filthy pigs, but rather we just don’t have a bin near us. Sure that means we are all just a bit lazy to hold onto our trash until we find a bin, but at least we are not just filthy pigs! Well most of us aren’t…
The answer then, is somewhat simple. Have more bins in the carparks.
But really, what needs to be realized is that litter is not cool or funny or neutral. Its ugly, stupid and harmful. So let’s stop littering people!