The BBC reported on April 30, 2014 that a piece of UK satellite debris was found by a fisherman in the Amazon; it came from a UK satellite launched in French Guiana in July 2013. The debris, the size of a car, took more than 10 people to move and local officials did not believe the discoverer when he reported finding it. I suppose this debris doesn’t qualify as “litter” but I started wondering, how much litter does end up being tossed around the globe every year?
To help answer that question, here are some interesting tid-bits reported from a Canadian source called CureLitter:
- 75: Percent of people who have admitted to littering in the past 5 years
- 50: Percent of all littered items that are cigarette butts
- 9 billion tons: Amount of litter dumped in the ocean every year
- 12 paces: Average number of steps a person will take holding trash before they litter
- $11.5 billion (US): Total estimated amount of money spent on cleaning up litter every year
- 16 feet: Average distance of litter from a trash can
Searching the internet, I was intrigued by one particular answer to my question – one author suggested that my original question was irrelevant; what we should really be focusing on is thanking the people that pick all that stuff up, no matter how much it is. That’s a fair point – maybe we should thank those of us who pick up the trash in addition to wagging our fingers at the people that plopped it there in the first place.
Earth Day has passed and so more likely than not, the environment has been pushed from people’s conscience (after all, the NHL and NBA playoffs are in mid-stream). So here I go: thank you to all the people who pick up roadside trash, and the trash in their own yards deposited there by neighbors and other inconsiderate drive by litter-lice. It really is a cleaner world because of what you do.
And by the way, the answer to the question “How much litter is generated every year?” has so many possible answers; I couldn’t decide what to report; but I did determine what I bet you suspected – it’s a lot.
Next time, let’s just put it in the bin.
About the Author
Gerald L. Kirkpatrick, P.G. is a Principal Geoscientist and the Managing Partner of Environmental Standards, Inc. Mr. Kirkpatrick has more than 30 years of applied environmental geoscience experience in both private industry and environmental consulting. Outside of work, Gerry enjoys fishing and an occasional single malt. A very poor chess player, he remains dedicated to the game, nonetheless.