Litter and the environment

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“Behaviour is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image.” 
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The start of all things good and bad begins with us as individuals. We have the power to act, to influence and to make a difference in life. We must just choose to do exactly this. When we look in the mirror we must be able to see the person who did right. So, in no uncertain terms does the control of litter not start with me as an individual. If we all do our part the impact will be hugely evident.

Litter is defined as “waste that has been disposed of improperly”. On land, it is estimated that 32% of plastics escape collection systems globally* by means of litter as well as improper waste management systems. It is widely considered that the more commonplace litter becomes to people, the greater the chance that other people will litter too, thus entering into a vicious circle of litter generation. The other avenue for litter to collect is in our waterways and marine environment where it is estimated that approximately 80% of marine litter is derived from land-based sources.

So, what can we do to reduce litter? We can all play a part to reduce waste and the risk of litter by buying only what we need and by recycling and reusing whenever possible.

A change in mind-set in each and every one of us is the key to transforming society into understanding that litter in any form is totally unacceptable. This mind-set change begins with education, and enlightening populations about the negative effects of litter to the environment.

One easily overlooked way of reducing litter is for governments to ensure that there is an adequate supply of waste bins, to ensure that littering is not an option and can be discouraged.

Certain products, such as those composed of plastics, are too valuable to be wasted and littered as there are post-uses for such products. Recycling plastics into completely different objects provides a great advantage for the disposal of plastic bottles for example, where park benches have been created.

With today’s technology and modern design of plastic products, the industry works towards creating resource-efficient product design without compromising on the full functionality required of the product. Alternative and sustainable end-of-life options for plastic waste are incorporated during the design phase in order to support the reuse of products and increased recycling possibilities.

* The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics

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Mylene Paynter