What lurks beneath: Just how harmful is litter to us?

When the tide comes in and picks up the litter left on beaches, you end up with floating islands of trash in the sea. (Shutterstock)

A friend of mine invited me for dinner. The table was set really nicely and the meal was exquisite. We had mushroom risotto for the main course and chocolate soufflé for dessert. I must say I was highly impressed with her cooking. The dinner, however, left a bad taste in my mouth for a simple fact. She kept tossing everything on the floor, such as leftover food, napkins, and bottles of water! This really ruined the whole experience for me.

Well…this is not entirely a true story, but wouldn’t you be shocked if it was? Well, what if I told you that it does happen everyday in a city you call home! Whenever people gather, whether in the park or on Jeddah’s seaside, the place is literally left in ruins. Tissues, water bottles, cans of soda, cigarette butts, plastic bags, broken glass and food are left behind all over the place, right there on the ground.

How harmful is litter to us and to our environment? The trash left behind contains disease and is a breeding ground for vermin and bacteria. It is passed on between animals and then on to us. When the tide comes in and picks up the litter left on beaches, you end up with floating islands of trash in the sea. Many a bird has been found dead on seashores after having ingested large amounts of garbage.

Health hazards

Litter, such as broken glass and syringes can cause a serious health hazard, especially to children and the elderly. Not only that, but plastic, which is non-biodegradable, takes forever to break down. When left in the sun, it releases its toxic chemicals into the air and causes pollution.

As a child, my father often took me camping in the mountains of Switzerland. I always noticed that most people brought along plastic bags to put their rubbish in, and they took those plastic bags with them. As a result, their forests and mountains remain clean because they treat their land with respect.

How harmful is litter to us and to our environment? The trash left behind contains disease and is a breeding ground for vermin and bacteria

Unfortunately, I have seen many people in Riyadh and Jeddah open their car window to just casually throw something on the street, not realizing that in addition to the pollution they create, debris on the road can also cause major accidents.

Removing litter from the streets costs everyone money, and these costs will continue to rise. Fines for littering should, therefore, be increased and enforcement should be harsh. First time violators should be fined. Repeat violators should be convicted of a misdemeanor and required to carry out community service of litter cleanup.

The cleanliness of our town should be the responsibility of every citizen. Let us all take care of our environment, if not for us then for our children and our grandchildren.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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