Littering not a victimless crime

Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In last Friday’s Outdoors section of The Tidewater News, a story ran about the trash that winds up in the Blackwater River (Litter cluttering Blackwater River, July 12, 2013). Franklin city manager Randy Martin noted efforts undertaken by the city to reduce trash in the streets and roadside ditches, which can not only wind up in our rivers but also lead to street-level flooding. Riverkeeper Jeff Turner, the guardian of our local waterways, notes the situation has improved over the years, but he thinks there is much room left for improvement. Turner, with the help of other volunteers, has literally removed tons of trash from local rivers over the last several years and is an expert without equal on the topic.

It is unlikely that anyone who litters intentionally sets out to do environmental damage when tossing refuse out of his or her vehicles’ windows. In fact, it is highly unlikely that the offenders are thinking about anything at all – other than themselves.

Littering is not a victimless crime, (or misdemeanor), and what may seem at the time to be a completely harmless act does in fact have several negative consequences. The increased costs of picking up roadside trash and storm drain maintenance go directly to the cities’, and counties’, bottom lines. Trash that makes it to the river does significant damage to the waterways’ ecosystems and poses an often life-threatening risk to wildlife. And, if nothing else, it just makes the environment in which we live together look like a mess.

There is no justifiable excuse in littering, and it is truly just a habit of the selfish and lazy. So the next time you roll the window down to dispose of a piece of trash, think before you throw. There are many good reasons to do so.