Oftentimes, people will throw their gum wrappers into the wind, or toss an empty water bottle into the gutter of the sidewalk, overlooking the damage that they are doing. Although these acts of carelessness are seemingly harmless and insignificant, there are billions of humans occupying this Earth, and enough people with this attitude of disregard for the environment can result in the destruction of the Earth’s health and cleanliness.

Even landfills can have detrimental effects on the environment as a result of toxins, leachates, and greenhouse gases, so one can only imagine how litter can affect the environment.

The health of the ocean and marine life is jeopardized directly as a result of litter. A tossed water bottle in the ocean, accompanied by strong oceanic winds and currents, has the potential to travel a far distance from where it was initially inappropriately disposed of. Plastic litter in the ocean can suffocate not only marine life, but also birds. Other kinds of litter, such as cigarettes and shiny foils can be ingested by these creatures, leading to their death.  In total, 5.25 trillion pieces of litter were in the ocean as of January 2015, and this number only grows. 

There is also litter that remains on land. Not only is it aesthetically displeasing, but it also has the capacity to pose dangers for drivers, act as fuel for a devastating fire, and serve as a breeding ground for dangerous viruses and bacteria. What’s more, chemical runoff and illegally dumped hazardous substances percolate through the Earth’s surface and contaminate water supplies, ultimately jeopardizing human lives.

Lastly, consider that in 2015, $11 billion was spent in litter removal efforts in the U.S. alone. This money could have been supporting philanthropic causes, but is instead spent to reverse the effects of selfishness and laziness. The next time you finish a bottle of water, please walk those grueling ten steps to the nearest trash can to dispose of it properly.