Litter is defined as rubbish items disposed off deliberately or by accident outside of bins and general waste areas. This means litter is the rubbish we find in our local environments, habitats and oceans – it is waste in the wrong place!
Litter can come from many places. For example, someone throwing away a cigarette butt from a car, a wrapper flying away from someone’s picnic, a plastic straw dropping out of a drink. Can you think of an example where litter comes from?
For most instances, we can stop litter in our environments. Sometimes, litter is inevitable, but the most important thing we can do is to educate our community on how NOT TO LITTER. The next biggest thing we can do is help clean up the litter that already exists!
Litter items have many drastic effects on the environment. Click the pictures below to learn about what litter can do to our natural areas.
Cleaning up litter costs a lot of money! In Australia, the government can spend up to $1 billion dollars on picking up litter. And, in Queensland alone, we spend up to $20 million dollars. If the litter wasn't there then the money can be used for other environmental projects!
Litter can harm water systems in two ways. First, organic litter such as dog poo and grass clippings can change the water quality. Second, inorganic litter (like plastic) can cause blockages in water systems and travel through creeks and rivers to end up in oceans.
The most harmful litter item is plastic. Plastic takes up to 1000 years to break up and even then, it breaks into tiny pieces called microplastics. In both forms, wildlife can mistake plastic for food. This occurs a lot with ocean animals such as sea turtles that can die from plastic ingestion.
Each year, the EcoMarines join in on Clean Up Australia Day where communities around Australia join in to clean up their local environments. Since this day started 30 years ago, over 380,000 Ute loads of rubbish have been picked up by more than 18.3 million volunteers across Australia! It is amazing the things we can achieve when we all work together!
Last year in our EcoMarines Corporate Clean Up, adults from businesses joined in to help clean up our riverside. We collected over 6070 pieces of rubbish with only 25 volunteers in 1 hour!
Many local councils have litter projects. For example, Brisbane City Council has the 104 or more Clean Up Club where they spread the word that if everyone picks up two pieces of rubbish per week for a year, then you will be keeping 104 pieces of litter out of our local areas! After running the program for a couple of years now, they have found out that 95% of Brisbane residents believe that this program is reducing litter especially when the council works together with the community!
This Hero Mission asks you to get outdoors and do two things. First, go for a walk around your neighbourhood with a friend or family member. Keep an eye out for and pick up litter as you go… Can you notice any patterns that tell the story of litter in your local area? For example, maybe you found lots of slushie cups in the park near the convenience store.
Your second task is to tell at least one person about the litter story of your local area and the harmful effects of litter you learnt about above. You could even create a poster or talk to shop owners to help try and avoid this litter problem!
Let us know how you went below and answer the fun questions! Well done, you can go to the Recycling level!