Every day when I walk to and from Ball State campus on my way to classes, events, or student organizations I often pass 10, 20, sometimes 30 pieces of trash laying about the ground. Every single day I pull grocery bags, candy wrappers, and plastic bottles from the small creek that runs by the Rec Center, and as I walk across the green by Frog Baby Fountain I find bits of plastic, ribbon, and other debris left behind by the student organizations who had been there the day before.
It’s somewhat horrifying to think that Ball State campus is one of the cleanest places within a city I’ve ever known. In fact, I typically trust campus to keep their streets so clean that I feel safe walking barefoot on campus, knowing that unlike any other place around the city, that I won’t be at risk of stepping on broken glass or rusted metal. But that doesn’t change the fact that people still leave entire bags of trash just sitting in the rec center parking lot or left carelessly on in our communal green spaces to later be washed into the drains which sooner or later always find their way back to the local water ways like the creek by the Rec Center or the White River not to far away.
Plastic litter is becoming an ever increasing problem in oceans all around the world, and our consumption of these non-degradable materials is only growing, while our disposal of them has changed very little. The majority of our waste in the United States is still being thrown away, while other countries are making leaps and bounds in increasing the percentage of waste recycled. With the US being one of the major consumers of plastic, aluminum, glass, and other recyclable materials this is a major problem.
Our oceans are literally “drowning in plastic” according to Dominique Mosbergen with Huffington Post, and a quick Google image search for “plastic in the ocean” easily shows this is no exaggeration. We’ve all seen images of sea turtles or gulls deformed from being trapped too long inside plastic soda can rings as the rest of their bodies grew around it, but too few of us make the connection between the trash we pass every day on our commute to and from class or work, to the waste in our oceans that has caused fatal results in hundreds of different species around the world, leaving many critically endangered.
But what if we could stop the flow of trash into our waterways with just one simple action per day? What if instead of turning a blind eye to that wrapper, or plastic bag, or bottle laying on the ground, you took just two seconds to stoop down and pick it up, and carry it just far enough to drop it in the next recycling bin you pass?
Every single day I see at least 10-30 pieces of trash laying about on campus, but I pass hundreds of people on that same commute. Imagine for a moment the difference it would make if every person in the world took the time to pick up just the first piece of trash they saw each day when leaving their house, and recycled it appropriately. Whether that piece be the tiniest bit of plastic laying in the grass, or a bottle caught in the weeds of a stream bank, or a plastic bag blowing along in the wind beside the sidewalk, imagine how much plastic and other litter we could keep out of the oceans and water ways around the world by just one simple action.
I know there will be people who aren’t swayed by this message, that there are many other factors in play that need to be resolved on political and social levels. I know there will be many who scorn this idea, but I hope there are also those of you out there who feel it is worth while to take just a few seconds out of your day to pause and realize the difference it could make. The power to motivate others is strongest when you can show them they aren’t alone. When you take the time to pick up even just #1PieceADay you show to others that this is a cause worth valuing. Imagine if every day you left the house you saw other people picking up a piece of trash and recycling it. Think about that, envision it in your mind, and honestly ask yourself, if you saw this, would you feel encouraged to do so too?