OES has a Littering Problem

By Sophia Elfrink 

Many students and faculty have noticed an increase in the amount of trash around the OES campus. Every day, on my trek down to the lower parking lot, I encounter granola bar wrappers, pencils, hair- ties, and plastic cups which are strewn about the campus. As a citizen of the OES community, I feel I must pick up trash when I see it, and you should too. But rather than shaming anyone, let’s investigate the root causes and consequences of littering.Possible Causes:

  • Lack of Trash Cans

One understandable cause for littering is a lack of disposable mechanisms. However, this is not the case at OES. You will find a trash can in nearly every classroom as well as every pathway. 

  • Laziness and Carelessness

Self-explainable… If you are too lazy to actually find a trash can, either stick your trash in a pocket or backpack until a trash can is more “conveniently” located, never resort to littering.

  • The Belief that Littering Has No Consequences

It can be difficult to fathom the greater repercussions of your actions, especially littering. But to diminish this misconception you should educate yourself and others on the detrimental environmental impact that trash has on living organisms. Although you may not be held accountable, your careless actions will harm others, such as birds, pets, streams, even our drinking water. “The majority of people believe there are others who will pick or clean up their trash,” however, this is not the case. Everyone is responsible for their actions littering is not an exception.

  • Presence of Trash in A Certain Area

Studies have shown that when the trash is especially abundant in a particular area, an individual is more inclined to litter. Understandably, humans will more likely act according to group behavior and following the reasoning that “if the did it, I can too.” Therefore, we must reduce the trash before the chain can begin.

Results of Littering:

  • Can Physically Harm or Injure People and Wildlife

Animals often consume trash on the ground which they are unable to safely digest. In addition to animals, “litter can contain objects that can harm or cause physical injury to people namely needles, blades or broken glass.”

  • High Clean-Up Costs

On a global scale, “litter cleanup costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion each year,” money that is being taken away from other important causes like healthcare and education. “Litter can also block stormwater drainage systems and cause urban flooding which requires money for intervention and restoration.” Even on a more minuscule scale, littering requires others to laboriously pick up the trash that others littered. This is unfair, and could easily be prevented if everyone held themselves accountable.

  • The Spread of Disease and Bacteria

Trash can “provide a breeding ground for diseases and pass it between animals that eat it.” Oregon frequents rain and wet weather, as a result, the trash can collect water and provide a breeding ground for pests like mosquitoes. This bacteria can also spread into waterways, “ toxic chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms in the trash may spread water-borne diseases which can negatively affect the health of both animals and humans if unclean or untreated water is consumed.”

  • Negatively Affects Aesthetic Values

“Littered places just look gross and depreciates the aesthetic value of the surrounding environments” like Fanno Creek and athletic fields.

OES frequently hosts tours for prospective students and families. Therefore, it is especially important to maintain a clean and presentable campus for those visiting the campus. The students, families, and faculty apart of the OES community also deserve a clean and safe campus that they can enjoy. 

While considering the solutions to the littering issue our community faces, I struggled with coming up with a new and innovative idea. In fact, we even have gathering announcements where we are told the impact that food and waste have on OES. What I realized is that we are given all of the resources needed to properly recycle and dispose of our trash, so why is there still trash on our campus? My theory, the cause of littering on campus comes down to three main causes: laziness, accidents, and lack of education surrounding repercussions of littering. Two out of these three issues can be easily resolved. I encourage you to take the initiative and learn more about the cycle of trash and the impact of littering in our community. If you are prone to accidents, develop a system to keep tabs on your trash. Finally, if you are simply lazy, ask yourself: is it worth the environmental repercussions that my actions cause in order to save a few seconds of your day?

If littering really pushes your buttons, you can reach out to SOLVE https://www.solveoregon.org/ to learn more about ways to help the community. 


Rinkesh. “Causes, Problems, and Solutions of Littering.” Conserve Energy Future, 27 Sept. 2017, https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-problems-solutions-littering.php.