By Payton Suire

Bienvenue én Louisiane. The beautiful state of Louisiana is the Sportsman’s Paradise, and as residents, we want our paradise to last for generations on. The Sportsman’s Paradise experience isn’t so scenic when the Louisiana estuaries and habitats are covered in cigarette butts, plastics, cans, tires, etc. Litter doesn’t just make Louisiana or our neighborhoods look bad, but it is also destroying our wildlife and environment (Keep Louisiana Beautiful).

Photo Credit: Nicki Boudreaux

Every morning I go on a five-mile walk on a trail surrounding my neighborhood. The surrounding wildlife and their habitats bring tranquility and peacefulness to the route. This is my little piece of paradise every day that I want to preserve. Some days, I run into this lovely couple who dedicates their morning walk to picking up the trash along the route. By simply bringing a trash-grabber and disposable plastic bag, they keep our walking trail presentable. If trash covered the walking trail, no one would be motivated to exercise and enjoy our trail’s little paradise.

So, what is litter? Litter can be anything disposed of improperly – bottles, plastic bags, candy wrappers, even biodegradable items (Keep Louisiana Beautiful). Why is litter so harmful? Birds, marine life, and other species can become entangled in trash or consume toxic or harmful trash (Keep Louisiana Beautiful).

Fishing hooks or broken glass and bottles can puncture skin causing infections in different species. If species eat plastic, the pieces stay in their digestive systems filling up their stomachs causing them to starve to death (Trash Effects on Wildlife). Research also proves that plastic in our waterways never goes away but breaks down into small pieces that hurt ocean species and release chemicals into the environment (Trash Effects on Wildlife).

Louisiana spends an estimated 40 million dollars from taxpayers each year on litter removal, education, and enforcement (Keep Louisiana Beautiful). Litter is preventable considering 81 percent of it is intentional with pedestrians generating 70 percent of all roadside litter.

Credit: Keep Louisiana Beautiful

How can we take action? Clean all trash out the bed of your trucks before going on a drive. Don’t throw your trash out of the car or boat. Keep a trash bag inside your cars or boats and take them with you to places you know won’t have trash cans, dumpsters, or waste bins. Secure your trash bins to prevent animals from snooping inside and making a mess. If you spot littering or illegal dumpsites, call the anti-litter hotline to report it: 1-888-548-7284 (Report Littering). There are also volunteer opportunities like Bayou Lafourche Clean Up Day, or you can take matters into your own hands like the lovely couple I know.

Sources:
Research. Let’s Face the Facts. We Have a Litter Problem. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://keeplouisianabeautiful.org/tools-resources/research/
Report Littering. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/report-littering
Rocksey’s Toolbox: Trash Effects on Wildlife. (2016). Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://keeplouisianabeautiful.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Rocksey-Lesson-Plan-6-Trash-Effects-on-Wildlife.pdf