For the sake of Nature, don’t dump your trash ☹

It was just the other day that I witnessed one of the gravest crimes possible. I was on the tram back home and the man in front of me was eating a sandwich, which in itself was fine. What was not fine, was what he did with the wrapping of his food. First, he tried to tuck it in a corner on the tram, but he decided against that once he saw me glaring at him. However, this man had the audacity to throw his trash out of the tram the second the back door opened. He then continued living his life as if he didn’t just help fuck up the environment a little bit more.

You see, I was never concerned with littering before I moved to Amsterdam. I knew it was a worldwide problem, but it never came near me. My hometown was pretty clean and trash-free, so I experienced a small shock once I came to live here. This shock reached its peak when I found an army of rats living in my apartment last year, which apparently isn’t uncommon either. [1] Rats are well known for transferring diseases, so you can imagine how worried I was once I found out about this problem. The cause of this rat infestation? Food waste.

I am not accusing you, dear reader, of littering. Unless you are the man I saw on the tram, because then I am accusing you of littering, sir. What I am doing is drawing attention to the little things you might be doing that are harmful for our environment. I will not ask you to stop using cans or plastic or paper. I will also not ask you to stop smoking. I would just like to ask you to throw away your waste responsibly if you don’t do so already. It’s not that hard to hold onto your litter until you find a trash can, is it?

Besides the fact that litter is a big eye-sore, it’s also bad for the environment to have all these tin cans, plastic bottles, and paper packages flying around. If not disposed of properly, litter can fly off and end up in small bodies of water and end up harming marine mammals or poisoning our water. Of course there are more ways in which people litter. Chemical dumping, for instance. Or mindlessly throwing tires and batteries out in nature. What I’m trying to say is that there are both big and small ways to litter, and I would like to draw some attention to the small.

Maybe you don’t care about marine mammals. I can’t relate, but I understand that not everyone has the same values. What I do know, is that all of us hopefully value our health. Littering can contaminate our water and our soil, and pollute our air. Ironically a simple cigarette butt containing toxic substances like arsenic [2] could contaminate both soil and water, while also possibly causing a fire if not put out properly when thrown away in a wooded area. [3] You could say that cigarette butts are a small example, but you should keep in mind how easy it is to dump a cigarette on the streets. I even dare say you have seen multiple butts lying around today.

Something else, a small precaution, could help decrease the plastic soup floating in our oceans: carrying a plastic bag at all times. How often do we spend ten cents at the supermarket on yet another plastic bag because we somehow have to carry our groceries home while we already have over a dozen lying around at home? It’s fairly easy to fold up a plastic bag and shove it in your pocket or whatever other bag you are carrying at the moment. Purchasing less plastic bags equals a smaller number of plastic possibly swarming the streets or floating in the ocean, saves you some change, and helps prevent diseases such as Parkinson and Alzheimer, while also keeping you fertile. [4]

The easiest, most straightforward thing we can do to decrease litter is actually using trash cans. I can totally understand that properly throwing away your midnight snack bag from McDonalds is the last thing on your mind once you’re done eating. Experience has taught me that many people just throw their trash on the street and don’t bother to carry their bag for 2.4 seconds to the nearest trash can or hold on to it while in the car to dispose once home. However, it’s the small things that make big differences. Disposing your food waste properly helps combat rat infestations and prevents us all of getting seriously ill.  

Nobody is forcing you to step out of your comfort zone. I’m not here to tell you to pick up every single piece of litter you encounter or comment on someone else’s stupid dumping acts. You don’t have to go out to protest and actively fight for our environment. That’s not my goal. I just want to make you aware of the small things you can do in order to show some love for mother Nature, if you’re not doing them already. You can make a difference. Be it by not mindlessly throwing your cigarette butts away; be it by carrying a plastic bag on you at all times; be it by properly throwing away your food waste. At the end of the day, you won’t be doing it for me, but for your own future health.

[1] Source.

[2] Arsenic is considered to be a toxic metal. Long-term exposure (i.e. drinking contaminated water) might result in heart disease and cancer.  

[3] Source.

[4] Source.

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