Not everyone deals with litter responsibly; carelessly discarding candy wrappers, cigarette butts, drinks cans, and larger items has a variety of negative effects. Littering spoils the attractiveness of a roadways, as well as urban and rural landscapes, while creating serious health and safety issues that potentially impact humans and wildlife, as well as the general environment.
One of the obvious effects of littering is the negative impact it has on the appearance of an area. A litter-strewn location looks dirty and unsightly, making it a less pleasant environment for those that live in or use it. Litter that accumulates may also smell, further reducing the quality of a location. When littering becomes commonplace in an area, it sends the message that the practice is acceptable, and the result is that people continue to discard litter carelessly.
Human Health and Safety
Littering can have a direct impact on human health. Food, packaging, and other materials left to rot provide a fertile breeding ground in which bacteria thrive, resulting in a health hazard for those that come into contact with it. Litter can also create safety problems; items such as broken glass bottles and metal cans can injure people who step or fall on them.
Impact on Wildlife
Litter can have a negative impact on both land- and water-dwelling wildlife. Animals can ingest inedible materials, such as plastic packaging and cigarette butts. In sufficient quantities, these materials may poison the animal or cause it to starve by blocking its intestinal tract. Another wildlife hazard involves entanglement -- for example, an animal could get trapped in debris such as six-pack rings and plastic packaging. This often has fatal consequences if the animal cannot free itself.
Litter -- especially cigarette and cigar butts -- can pose a fire hazard. Discarding a butt without fully extinguishing them can severe affect outdoor locations, such as forests and woodlands, as well as enclosed locations, such as sports stadiums. In enclosed locations, litter accumulating below seats and standing areas may not only ignite fires, it may help them spread more quickly.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, cleaning up litter cost American taxpayers about $11 billion in 2013. This affects organizations such as businesses, city councils, local communities, and educational facilities, making the money used for litter clean up not available for more positive use.