Why is Picking Up Trash Good for the Environment

Why is Picking Up Trash Good for the Environment?

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Krystine

Seeing litter strewn across parks and natural areas can feel discouraging.

But what tangible environmental benefits come from picking up this trash?

This article explores the diverse ecological impacts of keeping our public lands free of litter.

Why is Picking Up Trash Good for the Environment?

Picking up trash at the ocean
In 2013, nearly 650,000 people in 44 U.S. states and over 90 countries around the globe came together to remove 12,329,332 pounds of trash from 12,914 miles of coast and beach. Image Credit: Smithsonian

Picking up trash is beneficial for the environment because it directly protects wildlife from ingesting or becoming entangled in litter.

Clearing litter also beautifies natural areas, enabling tourism and recreation.

In addition, reducing trash saves municipalities clean-up costs and brings communities together through volunteer litter removal efforts.

Key Points

  • Removing litter prevents animals from accidentally eating or getting strangled by plastic and other hazardous trash.
  • Clean parks and public lands support tourism and enhance visitor experiences and appreciation for nature.
  • Less litter decreases taxpayer-funded cleanup bills and fosters community stewardship of shared spaces.

How Does Clearing Trash Benefit Nearby Habitats and Animals?

An animal eating trash scraps
Recycling helps wildlife by eliminating the risk of animals consuming recyclable waste or getting trapped and injured by garbage. When recyclables are sorted into outdoor commercial recycling bins it also helps to preserve their habitats. Image Credit: Clean River

Removing litter from natural areas directly supports local flora and fauna by:

Preventing Harmful Ingestion

Taking away trash removes opportunities for birds, fish, and other wildlife to mistakenly eat plastic items, cigarette butts, or food scraps that could obstruct digestive tracts or leach toxins.

Stopping Entanglement

Discarded fishing lines, ribbons, plastic bags, and netting can fatally entrap and estrange animals.

Removing litter eliminates these risks.

Improving Water and Soil Quality

Trash like motor oil containers, chemical cans, and plastic straws can leach toxins, pollute waterways, and degrade regional soil and water quality over time.

Proper disposal stems contamination.

Beautifying Natural Settings

From city parks to hiking trails, clearing litter creates scenic areas that nurture mental health and appreciation for local landscapes.

On a small scale, litter removal directly protects animals and enriches the habitats we share.

What Are the Broader Benefits of Clearing Litter?

Picking up trash also confers regional and economic benefits:

Boosting Tourism

Litter removal enhances natural beauty, improving recreation experiences.

Pristine scenery entices more tourism which supports local businesses.

Saving Municipalities Money

Reducing litter decreases taxpayer funded cleanup costs.

Chicago estimates it saves $4.5 million annually by keeping litter off expressways through public awareness campaigns.

Building Community

Volunteer litter clean-ups bring residents together, fostering relationships and inspiring community investment in public space stewardship.

Improving Health

Studies show participating in outdoors community improvement efforts within nature enhances mood, lowers stress, and benefits mental health.

Encouraging litter removal reaps diverse social, economic, and personal well-being rewards that ripple through communities.

How Can We Sustain Litter Abatement Long Term?

Instilling anti-littering habits through education ensures lasting impact:

School Programs

Lessons on ecological stewardship in classrooms and volunteer student clean-ups cultivate environmental values starting young.

Social Marketing Campaigns

Advertisements and informational brochures bring awareness to how litter damages local species and habitats to change behaviors.

Leading By Example

Friends or family setting a positive norm by consistently proper trash disposal or carrying reusable bags influences others’ habits.

Providing Convenient Waste Disposal

Ensuring ample public trash and recycling receptacles prevents improper disposal due to lack of accessible options.

Small consistent actions scaled across communities ensure wildlife, waterways, and public lands thrive free of plastic waste and pollution.

How Can We Help The Environment By Picking Up Trash?

Picking up litter helps the environment in a few key ways:

Removing trash from natural areas, beaches, parks, hiking trails, and other public spaces prevents animals from eating debris or getting entangled, which could be injured or fatal.

Keeping these areas trash-free protects wildlife.

Gathering litter removes contaminants like motor oil, chemicals, plastics, and litter containing food scraps that could leach toxins or debris into nearby soil and waterways when left there long-term.

This improves regional water and soil quality.

Clearing trash beautifies parks, trails, beaches, and other recreation sites.

Scenic natural areas clear of litter benefit local tourism, the economy, and our mental health.

Participating in community litter clean-ups fosters environmental stewardship starting at a young age when included in school lessons.

These habits then propagate through society.

How Does Trash Affect The Environment?

Trash harms the environment through:

Leaking toxins into soils and waterways when hazardous litter like motor oil containers, chemical cans, and plastic bags accumulate in natural areas after being discarded improperly.

Contaminating soils, plants, and groundwater when buried in landfills over years or decades as materials slowly decompose.

Entangling and strangling wildlife like birds, fish, and turtles when litter like fishing gear, plastic netting, and six-pack rings is left.

Causing ingestion issues and starvation when animals accidentally consume plastic food wrappers or bottle caps believing them to be food.

Accumulating in massive ocean vortexes and littering beaches when trash is washed out to sea, degrading marine habitats.

Is Trash Good For The Environment?

No, trash and litter are universally harmful to the environment.

While certain limited trash items like wood or paper can organically biodegrade if buried, the vast majority of litter like plastics, styrofoam, and electronic waste persist for decades or centuries.

If left in habitats, these forms of trash leach toxins, entangle wildlife, disrupt soil health, and contaminate water sources through runoff.

Certain organic waste can provide nutrition when composted properly, but in uncontrolled environments like oceans and forests, food and human waste foster disease.

Overall, allowing trash and litter to proliferate damages ecosystems and poses dangers to plant and animal health and environmental integrity.

Properly disposing of waste is crucial.

Key Takeaways on Litter and the Environment

  • Clearing litter directly protects animals from ingestion and entanglement threats.
  • Less litter supports tourism, saves municipalities money, and builds community.
  • Sustained public education, leading by example, and providing proper waste disposal reduces litter long term.

The simple act of litter removal creates cascading benefits from preserving local biodiversity to fostering community stewardship and ownership of shared natural spaces. With small consistent actions, we each can make a big difference!


How does clearing trash help nearby habitats and animals?

Taking away litter eliminates the risks of birds and wildlife mistakenly consuming trash that could obstruct digestive tracts or leach toxins. Removing fishing lines and plastics prevents dangerous entanglements.

Does picking up litter benefit local economies?

Yes, keeping recreation areas free of trash supports tourism and improves experiences for visitors who then patron local businesses. This provides economic gains.

How can communities sustain litter removal long-term?

Consistent public education campaigns, leading by example, ensuring accessible trash disposal, and fostering habits starting young are key for permanent litter reduction.

GreenChiCafe is passionate about the environment and our natural world.

Please check out our website for more great content on important environmental topics.

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