What is litter? The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 defines litter as any solid or liquid domestic or commercial refuse, debris or rubbish and, without limiting the generality of the above, includes any glass, metal, cigarette butts, paper, fabric, wood, food, abandoned vehicle parts, construction and demolition material, garden remnants and clippings, soil, sand or rocks, and any other material, substance or thing deposited in or on a place if its size, shape, nature or volume makes the place where it was deposited disorderly or detrimentally affects the proper use of that place, deposited in or on a place, whether or not it has any value when or after being deposited in ...view middle of the document...
Litter can harm humans and the environment in a number of different ways. These tires were discarded on the Middle Branch of Baltimore Harbor in this photo from 1973. Tire dumping is still a concern today and could benefit from tire recycling. Hazardous materials contained within litter and illegally dumped rubbish can leach into water sources, contaminate soil and pollute the air. Tires are the most often dumped hazardous waste. In 2007 the United States generated 262 million scrap tires. Thirty-eight states have laws that ban whole tires being deposited in landfills. Many of these discarded tires end up illegally dumped on public lands. Tires can become a breeding ground for insect vectors which can transmit disease to humans. Mosquitoes, which breed in stagnant water, can transmit West Nile Virus and Malaria. Rodents nest in accumulated tires and can transmit diseases such as Hantavirus
When tires are burned they can smolder for long periods of time emitting hundreds of chemical and compounds that pollute the air causing respiratory illnesses. Additionally the residue left behind can harm the soil and leach into groundwater.
This bolus from a Hawaiian albatross (either a Black-footed Albatross or a Laysan Albatross) has several ingested flotsam items, including monofilament from fishing nets and a discarded toothbrush. Ingestion of plastic flotsam is an increasing hazard for albatrosses, Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals. Visual pollution is a major effect of litter. Open containers such as paper cups or beverage cans can hold rainwater, providing breeding locations for mosquitoes. In addition, a spark has the potential to hit a piece of litter like a paper bag which could start a fire.
Litter can be hazardous. Debris falling from vehicles is an increasing cause of automobile accidents. Over 800 Americans are killed each year in debris/litter-attributed motor vehicle collisions. Discarded dangerous goods, sharps waste and pathogens resulting from litter can cause accidental harm to humans. Litter also carries substantial cost to the economy. Cleaning up litter in the U.S. costs hundreds of dollars per ton, about ten times more than the cost of trash disposal, for a cost totaling about $11 billion per year.
Animals may get trapped or poisoned with litter in their habitats. Cigarette butts and filters are a threat to wildlife and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds and whales, who have mistaken them for food. Also animals can get trapped in the rubbish and be in serious discomfort. For example, the plastic used to hold beverage cans together can get wrapped around animals' necks and cause them to suffocate as they grow. Organic litter in large amounts can cause water pollution and lead to algal blooms. Cigarettes could also start fires if they are not put out and then discarded in the environment
Public waste containers or street bins are provided by local authorities to be used as a convenient place for the disposal and...