Glass shards and litter, even a plastic chair on a basketball field.

Every day, people throw trash on the streets. Either it’s carelessness or there are no trash cans nearby. The KAB’s National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study shows that American citizens throw over 51 billion pieces of litter on U.S. roadways each year.

Besides that it doesn't look nice, it's also harmful to our environment. You might have heard about birds that died because they ate too many small pieces of litter. Debris might end up in ground water. Animals and us drink it and may become sick. Other garbage gets flushed into the oceans and they create gigantic patches of garbage. This is a huge problems because fishes confuse the plastic with food and thus it ends up in their bellies and they take in the toxins. If they don’t die, some of them get fished and land in our plates... it’s always coming back to us!

A while ago, I saw a meadow that had trash here and there. I wondered how it would be like if more people would care. That the majority of us people took a few seconds to pick up some trash from the streets and throw it in the bin. Would this meadow actually be completely clean?

Let’s use the example of the USA with its 318 million inhabitants and 51 billion new pieces of litter each year. What if 25% of the people would at least pick up 2 pieces of garbage each day? Combined they would release the streets from 58 billion pieces of trash. So we - the people - would rather keep the streets clean than polluting them. Plus, who is ambitious like that is less likely to throw garbage on the street.

Unfortunately, it’s not so realistic to believe that a quarter of the population would care so much about their environment to actually pick up some trash. But hey, at least a quarter cares so much not to litter, according to the statistics of Cure Litter, Live Strong. We have to start somewhere to raise awareness. litteringiswrongtoo.org informs people about the problems of littering as well as some solutions.

For me, I am likely to pick up some trash when I have it easy (and I have it easy most of the time). For instance, when I see an old plastic bag on my way to the supermarket: It takes me two seconds to pick it up and one second to throw it in the bin. It's not a lot of effort to do so. And recently I saw a piece of paper being carried away by the wind. When I walked towards it to pick it up, I thought: "I wish it was money (nah, it probably isn't...)". Then I picked it up and it was indeed five Euro! That's a nice side effect of picking up trash. I got indirectly paid.

Five weeks ago I started a challenge on habitrpg.com (a popular habit building app) called "I pick up the trash". This challenge can help to form two habits: "I don’t throw trash on the street" and "I pick up some trash". So far 194 people are participating and more are joining each day. I am amazed to see that we do great altogether. Together we already picked up thousands of pieces of litter.

Sara and me often look for materials that lie on the streets too. Valuable material that people throw away without care. Take a guess where most of our candle-holder and bottle caps come from. Of course, we clean everything we find.

Every bit helps. And do not get fooled into thinking that the actions of one person can't make a difference in the world. If you happen to be the one who actively stands up for something and it makes sense, others will join eventually. In that sense, I hope that you will join us and pick up at least one piece of litter a day.

~Eric


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