Solving The Global Litter Problem


Littering is an ever-increasing worldwide problem. Chances are, you’ve seen litter scattered along roadsides, floating in waterways, or blowing across a parking lot.

The well-being of people, animals, and the environment is compromised by litter. People can become injured by items such as broken glass and are susceptible to disease caused by unsanitary conditions. Animals are at risk to ingest garbage and become trapped and debilitated by waste. The environment becomes threatened when litter invades natural habitats and when toxic chemicals from items, such as plastic, seep into soil and groundwater.

It takes a  long time for litter to break down. An item that is commonly irresponsibly disposed of, the plastic bottle, can take up to 450 years to degrade. Not too far behind, an aluminum can takes an average of 80-200 years to break down. These are just two of the many  items that cause harm if they are not responsibly disposed of.

Many youth who are concerned about the global litter epidemic are motivated to take action in their communities. Through Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program and other youth-based initiatives, young people have launched an abundance of projects aimed at solving the litter issues in their communities. Young people are organizing community clean ups at their schools, places of worship, and in their communities. Some groups are handing out reusable shopping bags to replace plastic bags,  others are making art out of the litter they collect! They are raising awareness about the consequences of littering by educating peers, friends, families, and the everyday public. One Roots & Shoots group is taking action to prevent cigarette litter by distributing cigarette disposal units in their community.

Countless numbers of young people are making positive changes to solve the litter problem we face. You can, too! Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Neighborhood Cleanup
Invite your friends and neighbors to join you in keeping the neighborhood clean. Make a goal to collect  a certain amount of litter each day or week, and challenge others to do the same. Check the lids on your trash/recycle bins when you set them at the curb. Ask yourself if the lids are secure or if any items can escape. Encourage your neighbors to follow your example. A small action like securing the lid on a trash bin can make a big difference.

Participate In a Litter Prevention Program
There are countless programs aimed at solving the litter epidemic. Consider participating in a campaign led by Keep America Beautiful or an Adopt-A-Street program (search the Internet or contact your city hall to learn about your local program.)

Download the Litterati App
Litterati is an app that tracks the amount of litter you pick up. Just take an in-app picture of the litter you collected, tag it, and upload it to the Litterati digital landfill! Litterati is a great app that will motivate you to continue to pick up litter and do good for the Earth.

Join Roots & Shoots
Roots & Shoots provides valuable skills, tools, and support to help you complete a successful community campaign. Plus, it’s free! Click here to learn more.


About Author

Abby is a member of the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). She is passionate about causes such as literacy, fracking, roadside litter, menstrual hygiene, lyme disease awareness, and wildlife conservation. Her biggest achievement yet has been donating over 1,300 books to organizations serving youth in MA & RI. If she isn’t dancing en pointé at the studio, Abby can be seen exploring state/national parks, creating art, or reading a good book.