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Litter, Vitiating Local Communities
China is a beautiful country but it is incessantly tarnished by the blight of litter, so when it comes to litter, are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Litter has been a problem not just in China but all around the world. The United Nations has initiated the sustainability goals to solve 17 problems that plague the world today. Litter falling under sustainable cities and communities, the United Nations has proposed many solutions to help make cities and communities more sustainable but the ones that helps solve the problem of litter are their goals of improving cities waste management systems so that cities produce less waste by 2030. Their other goal is to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces… by 2030, and support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning. These are all the ways the united nations are trying to reduce litter and make communities more sustainable.
Litter is a big problem in China and has been a problem for the longest time, it doesn’t only impact the richer, more aristocratic communities, it also affects the pastoral communities too, just not to the same degree. China has tried to solve their problem of litter by making free plastic bags illegal in hope to convince people to bring their own bags or to re-use the plastic bags. Litter isn’t only a problem in China, it is a global problem. Britain was one of the most littered countries in the world in 2015, even more so than China, but since they have increased their efforts to clean up litter they have dropped and is not the most littered country in the world, now imagine if China did this. China has a larger population than Britain and their GDP is much higher, in 2016 China’s GDP was 10.87 trillion US dollars (World Bank) whereas Britain’s was only 2.85 trillion US dollars (World Bank), so if China put the effort and money into helping clean up litter they could dramatically reduce the amount of litter on their streets. But China hasn’t put much effort or money into cleaning up litter recently, causing the streets to become obstructed by litter, but if China is to solve their persisting litter problem, residents must be educated on litter’s effects and how they can help to combat the persisting problem.
Litter is dealing major damage to the environment, some people might say that litter doesn’t have enough of an impact on the environment to be worrisome or dangerous, but that claim is preposterous. This is because litter is killing millions of animals every year and poisoning the environment. According to Ncdps one third of all litter products are tobacco products. When a cigarette is thrown on the ground it can take up to 12 years to break down, and during that process it releases toxic chemicals like lead and arsenic into waterways or soil where they lay. It also poisons and kills animals and sometimes small children who pick them up and eat it. Litter can also hurt and kill house pets. The RSPCA receives more than 7,000 calls per year regarding animals either strangled or chocking on litter (Impact on Communities). Not all litter that is thrown on the streets affects land animals though, according to the UN 80% of the litter in the oceans comes from land, and they estimate that from every square mile of water in the ocean there are 46,000 pieces of litter. All this plastic in the ocean is eaten by a variety of marine life. Plastic bags can look like jellyfish to turtles, and since jellyfish are one of the main food sources for turtles they can eat the bags. Many different types of plastic can be mistaken for food in the marine world, when marine animals digest the plastic it gets stuck in their stomachs, which can poison them. Other examples of plastics in the ocean damaging marine life is when fishermen throw old fishing nets in the ocean or when beer rings get into the ocean, they can trap animals like turtles or seals in them, which can strangle them and effectively kill them. (Amaral, Kimberly) This shows that litter doesn’t only affect animals, it can also have negative impacts on soil and water, it also shows that litter doesn’t only effect land animals. However, litter doesn’t only effect the land and animals, it also effects humans too. Litter on the ground doesn’t only harm and kill land animals, it can also attract many rodents or insects. Because litter on the streets provides a dark and moist environment it is an ideal breeding place for rodents or insects carrying diseases. It can also harbour bacteria which can be deadly. Besides providing an ideal place for rodents’ litter on the streets can build up and clog storm drains which can lead to flash flooding (Litter Awareness). Since cigarettes make up 1/3 of all the worlds litter there are many which are thrown onto streets every day. If there are any lit cigarettes thrown into areas with wildlife or vegetation they can cause fires. This shows that litter can have some very damaging and long-lasting effects on the environment, not does it kill animals, it can damage and contaminate soil and water. These are some conclusive reasons why and how litter is effecting the environment, however, litter doesn’t only effect environments, it also has major effects on economies.
Litter is costing economies boat-loads o f money to clean up every year and is weakening the economies. Some people might say that litter doesn’t cost too much money to clean up and does not pose any major economic problems, but what they fail to realize is that in 2015 it cost the British government over 1 billion euros to clean up, and litter does pose major threats to the economies. In a survey conducted by Keep Britain Tidy on local residents where the neighborhood has a lot of litter, the results show that 71% of residents interviewed think that if the government didn’t need that 1 billion euros to clean up litter it could be used for many different things, thus improving the economy. According to Keep Britain Tidy and kingdom.co.uk in Britain alone they spend 1 billion euros every year to clean up litter, if there was not litter this money could be either used to reduce taxes or to drastically improve the economy. They say that 1 billion euros could be used to fund 38,644 social care workers, 31,900 fire fighters, 33,200 nurses or 26,900 paramedics. These 1 billion euros could also be used to help provide education to people, 1 billion euros could be used to send 301,476 children to elementary school, pay the full costs for 4,440 libraries or for 1 billion free school meals for students whose families can’t afford it. The government could also use these 1 billion euros to help make Britain greener or provide for people, 1 billion euros could be used to pay for 704,200 people's houses electricity and gas bills, it could be used to build 2,000 km of biking trails around Britain, it might also be used to make 333,000 houses more energy efficient, or the money could be used to make 193,000 community food growing places. These are all the possible alternatives that that money could be spent on, rather than using it to clean up litter it can help drastically improve Britain economically. If there was less litter for the government to spend money on to clean up it could drastically improve the economy in a manner of ways. Litter can also impact how much money a government earn in a year. Studies show that people are less likely to care about places if there is a lot of litter there. Studies show that people tend to travel less to places where there is a lot of litter. It is especially damaging to places that either rely on natural beauty or rely on tourism. According to Keep Britain Tidy the #1 factor influencing if people visit a place or not is cleanliness, so if a place relies on people visiting it to make money then if there is a lot of litter there their sales will drop, thus damaging the economy. If there was less litter around places that look nicer and rely on people then the economy will grow faster and earn more money. If there was less litter on the streets, then the economy of that place would spend less money on cleaning it up and earn more money because more people would visit. This would allow the governments and economies to grow and expand faster,
Litter is ruining communities in many ways like increasing anti-social behaviour and crime. Some people might blindly argue that litter only adds some trash to communities, it doesn’t harm them or have any negative effects on communities at all. But what they fail to acknowledge is that surveys' done by kingdom.co.uk show that 62% of people they surveyed said that they care about the appearance of their neighborhood and 57% of those people said that they considered litter to be a problem their neighborhood. Another study shows that if there is a lot of litter in a neighborhood there is a higher chance of there being crimes and a higher chance of the residents of that area developing anxiety and depression. An Oxford study shows that people use their surroundings to infer what the social norms in that society are and what is acceptable to do and what is not. In this experiment people were either exposed to a clean neighborhood or one with a lot of litter on the street, and the ones who were exposed to a lot of litter on the streets constantly littered more than the people exposed to the clean environment. This shows that if there is less litter on the streets in the first place then there will be less litter that accumulates because of the litter in the first place. Another study shows that 80% of land managers think that if they helped cleaned up litter around their land then the crime rate for things like trespassing and theft. Another study shows that there is a strong correlation between social depravation and litter around a neighborhood, social deprivation is when the residents of a community don’t interact as much and all the residents care less about their neighborhood. Therefore, if people reduced the amount of litter in any neighborhood they could increase the social activity in the community and reduce the amount of crime. Overall increasing the residents’ happiness. This is how litter negatively effects communities, if there were less litter communities would be happier, there would be less crime, and people would be more social.
You can help to clean up litter, it’s not only up to the government. Some people might argue blindly that if you don’t have the government help you then individuals don’t have the power to make a difference. But if communities got together, even small communities, they could make a large difference on the way litter impacts the community. There are many ways that individuals can help clean up litter, not all of them are very easy or fun to do. The ways I'm saying are not very hard to do and not very dirty but can have a drastic improvement on the neighborhood. One easy way to reduce the amount of litter that builds up around the neighborhood is to make it look nicer by doing something like gardening. This would reduce the amount of litter that build up around your neighborhood. This is a way to reduce the amount of litter because studies show that places where there is less litter, less litter will be thrown there. Another easy way to reduce litter is to make sure that the people in your community know how to properly dispose of their trash and make sure that the lids on their trash cans are on tightly. This can help reduce litter because if they know how to properly dispose of their trash then they won’t throw it onto the streets, and because if the lids are on properly then the trash inside can’t get blown out or taken out by animals. These are some of the easiest and most effective ways you can help reduce litter around your neighborhood without the government or local authorities help. If you want to get your local authorities involved with the clean-up process there are ways to do that too. When doing this the one thing you don’t want them to do is to add more trash cans to streets with not many, this is because one study conducted by Curb Your Litter found that industrial roads that had only one trash can on each corner and industrial roads with many trashcans on them had very little difference in the amount of litter on the roads. If you want to get the government involved in helping clean up litter is to convince the local government to add more recycling programs to your local communities, another way to get the government to help you accelerate the clean-up for litter is to make sure that the local community has a fine for litter, this way you can report people who you see littering and this will discourage other people from littering. Everyone, including you can help clean up litter, but if you get communities or governments involved you can accelerate the speed at which you reduce litter in your local neighborhood.
All of this evidence proves that Chinese residents should continue to be educated on the effects litter has on the economy, the environment, and society. This research proves without a shadow of a doubt that litter does substantial damage to the economy and environment and promotes anti-social behavior and crimes. Litter kills millions of animals, marine or not, every year and poisons water and soil. Litter also costs economies billions of dollars to clean up and reduces the amount of tourism and income. Litter also promotes criminal behavior around and in the community. If governments were to solve the problem of litter then economies would thrive, the environment would take a large step forward towards being a clean planet. If we reduced the amount of litter it could also make communities safer and a more social. “We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” - Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House.
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Appendix - Modelg you can help clean up litter, but if you get communities or governments involved you can accelerate the speed at which you reduce litter in your local neighborhood.
Nolan, Jessica M. "Social Norms and Their Enforcement - Oxford Handbooks."