The Many Effects Of Littering
Of all of the effects of littering, the one we usually notice the most is the unattractive mess left by the practice. For many, the effects of littering stop there. It goes without saying that if everyone were sufficiently upset by the visual effects of littering, there would undoubtedly be far less of it.
The problem with focusing solely on the visual aspects of littering is that, while an excessive amount of it is seen as bad, a little bit of it is sometimes regarded as OK. After all, we can't keep sidewalks, parking lots, vacant lots, and roadsides as clean as the inside of our home. There may be some truth to this, but it's not an excuse for throwing a candy wrapper out the window.
Accidental Vs Intentional - If you walk along a road, surveying the effects of litter, you might go through a little exercise in trying to classify each bit of litter you see as being either intentional or accidental. Accidental litter is your two-year old tossing his pacifier out the car window, or even a small sack of garbage falling off a truck because it wasn't secured down. The latter example could be attributed to carelessness or a lack of attention to detail, but usually isn't something intentional. A beer bottle or soda pop can by the roadside is almost always intentional littering, and hamburger wrappers, paper cups and other fast food containers found by the roadside are usually also intentional littering.
Don't Toss Liquids Either - The effects of littering, whether intentional or not, usually go far beyond the visual aspect. We don't think of throwing liquids aside as littering, and if the liquid is water, that's probably a fair assumption. But many other liquids can do harm to the environment, especially petroleum based liquids. Liquids should be mentioned because, unless someone empties a can of paint, this kind of litter is invisible or nearly so, and it becomes a matter of out of sight, out of mind. The problem with this thinking is that liquids can be tossed aside or dispensed with on a large scale at times. Or, if everyone throws out a little liquid, which doesn't evaporate, over time ground water quality and plant life may be affected.
One of the major effects of littering, which most really don't give much thought to is that it ends up costing money, usually taxpayer's money, as local governments have to hire people to clean things up. The argument that littering provides some with prospects of employment is somewhat hollow, as it is work that should not need to have to be done.
Items That Decompose And Little Time Capsules - Other problems can arise if litter is allowed to accumulate, where it stops becoming litter and become debris or trash and as such an attracts vermin, and bacteria, which among other things, puts those hired to clean up the mess at some risk. Even banana peels and apple cores, which we sometimes toss, knowing they will eventually decompose, do not do so overnight, and in the process can attract the very vermin and bacteria that can be a source of problems.
Then of course there are those items which do not decompose, and even though water is considered the universal solvent, it can take centuries for the elements to decompose a plastic cup or a section of PVC pipe. When we toss a plastic cup we are in one sense tossing a little time capsule, that might be of some interest to someone finding it in the year 3050, but until then it is simply litter.
Arrogance? Probably - It's not too difficult to put together a little list of the various effects of littering, but the worst effect of all may be when it becomes habitual. Even fine, upstanding citizens will litter, but it goes without saying that the practice can be considered an act of laziness, carelessness, thoughtlessness, and even arrogance, especially if the thinking is that it's OK since someone else, probably working at a minimum wage or (bless his or her heart) volunteering, will eventually pick the mess up.