About half the litter along Kitsap County roadsides is “intentional” litter, meaning that it was the intent of the litterer to litter. The other half of the remaining litter is the result of passive or “unintentional” littering. Unsecured/undersecured vehicle loads, windblown debris from car windows or pickup truck beds, and other unnoticeable actions contribute to litter.
Picture this scenario: You are walking from the supermarket — hands full with groceries — and it’s a bit breezy out. Suddenly, the receipt from the purchase flies out of the bag in your arms. Whether you noticed it or not, do you go back and get the windblown receipt? Can you even recover it before it blows farther than you can chase it down? If you answered no, you might be guilty of unintentional littering.
Here’s another one: Have you ever released a helium balloon in the air — accidentally or on purpose? Eventually that balloon is coming down. Who knows where? But just like the mythical Icarus, it’s coming back down to Earth, more than likely to rest in a tree or waterway. In both instances, the results are unsightly and can cause environmental harm.
We are all likely guilty of unintentional litter. Everything seems to come in some sort of packaging these days, and sometimes, that extra “stuff” can just leave our grasp. Even with the best intentions, unintentional litter can become a part of even the staunchest of anti-litterbug’s lives. Here are steps you can take to reduce the amount of rogue straw wrappers and fugitive plastic bags and prevent unintentional litter:
Secure Your Load
Taking a spring-cleaning load to the transfer station? Helping a friend move? Hauling landscape material like bark, compost or lumber? Tie it down and cover it!
Use sturdy ratcheting tie-downs, heavy rope or chain and cover loads of aggregate, soil and other loose materials with a tarp. Once properly secured, items in the vehicle should not move. If something flies out of your vehicle, you can be fined and held liable for property damage or bodily harm to other motorists.
Hold On to That Balloon
Let’s cancel the big balloon release at the next birthday party or family gathering. Helium balloons may eventually leave your sight, but they do continue to float and exist after you can’t see them.
They will eventually fall to Earth and cause problems for someone else — most likely sea life.
Straw wrappers, gum wrappers and other debris filling up that side compartment in your car door? Opt for a litterbag somewhere in the vehicle instead. Opening that car door might be just enough to blow some of that material out.
Be sure to keep litter inside your vehicle and properly dispose of it in a refuse container frequently. Additionally, during these warm weather months, be sure that loose debris is secure in your car. Driving with the windows down can create turbulence and an exit point for any loose debris in your vehicle.
Keep the Bed Clean
Speaking of turbulence, it’s a bit windy in the bed of an uncovered pickup truck. Loose debris is sure to fly out when left back there.
Don’t use the bed of a pickup as a waste depository and be sure to sweep the bed when unloading aggregates, soil or any other loose debris.