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The Wastebin Of Our World

Litter creates detrimental effects on our environment

October 22, 2019

The sun scrapes over the tree line of Legacy Park, igniting the emerald soccer fields, reaching to the black pavement of the student parking lot, and shining on the students as they emerge from cars and buses, ready for a brand new day at Francis Howell Central. However, in the grass around the school, in the parking lot, and inside the building itself, a person could see litter, tarnishing the image. 

According to National Geographic, 8.63 billion tons of plastic products have been made in total. Of that shocking amount, 6.3 billion tons have become plastic garbage, 79 percent of which ends up litter. This number seems unrealistic, but real life examples are all around, according to Mrs. Karen Flood, all they would have to do is look on the ground in front of them. 

“I find litter everywhere I go. I always pick it up as I walk through the building of [the] school, I pick it up in the parking lot,” Mrs. Flood said. “I think litter is one of the biggest problems that we have with our throwaway society.” 

The most common item Mrs. Flood finds is (unsurprisingly) plastics and personal waste, things most people use on a daily basis and throw away without a thought. 

“I think the most common [item I find] is plastic, lots of food and drink [waste], especially when I’m out at parks and stuff,” Mrs. Flood said. “I think most of the stuff that I find is [what] people have left from either eating or drinking.” 

Mrs. Flood is part of a group called Clean Stream, a group that goes out and retrieves litter from bodies of water locally. 

“We started doing Clean Stream because we thought it was really important for the students to have something [that they] got together and did…for our [local] community,” Mrs. Flood said. “A lot of the things that we’ve done in the past have been for hurricane relief for storms, and we wanted to do something that the students would be directly affected [by].”

Much of the trash seen in the rivers and lakes that Clean Stream helps get rid of is caused by everyday people just leaving their trash around, even if it’s nowhere near a body of water, according to Mrs. Kellie Staback, the sponsor for the Environmental Club and an Environmental Sciences teacher.

“A lot of the plastic packaging either makes it to a landfill, where it takes hundreds and hundreds of years to decompose, or it doesn’t make it to a landfill,” Mrs. Staback said. “It ends up littering, just like we see around our own campus community. It could get stuck in rain runoff and get into our creeks and streams and rivers, and eventually into the ocean.”

It may also hurt the organisms living in the wild where the waste used by humans ends up and could potentially hurt them in many ways. 

“It definitely impacts ecosystems. A lot of times, different researchers have found that animals actually eat the plastic that’s in the rivers, in the creeks, or even…on the side of the road, which makes them obviously very sick and can actually lead to their deaths,” Staback said. “It’s not only affecting the quality of our own environment as humans, but also [the quality of life] for other organisms too.”

Other than Clean Stream, the school has provided another way to help alleviate the issue of litter; Wednesday afternoon nature walks. Junior Sarah Skelly, a member of the Environmental Club, plans to take part in these walks after school during PLC time. 

“We’re going to be walking around the campus of school and picking up trash, and then on Sundays, we might go into Legacy Park and pick up trash there too,” Skelly said. 

As a student here, Skelly said she believes the easiest and simplest way to help is to make sure trash is thrown away, both when it comes to personal waste and any waste seen around a person’s area. 

“Recycle plastic, paper and cans that can be recycled, stuff like that. [You] can also make sure that [your] trash makes it in the trash can, and if [you] see litter, pick it up,” Skelly said. 

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