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5 things you need to know about litter

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Here are some reasons to stop littering.

Littering is stupid. That simple act of tossing your water bottle, food wrapper, or cigarette butt out of the car window is hurting you. Mostly in the wallet, but also in quality of life, safety, crime rate, and health.

If "stupid" isn't reason enough, here are some other reasons to stop littering:

1. Cleaning up litter costs US taxpayers and businesses $11.5 billion each year. That's money that could have been used to improve roads and communities.

2. Litter in and alongside the road causes traffic accidents. Each year, hundreds of people in the US are killed as a result of hitting or attempting to avoid motorist-created road debris and litter. Litter impacts your car insurance rates because each year thousands of auto accidents in the US are litter related.

3. Highly-littered areas experience more crime and reduced property values. Law enforcement experts say that litter sends a message to would-be criminals that you just don't care your community. Lesser violations like littering easily pave the way to more serious crimes. Litter in your community also can reduce your property value by as much as 24 percent. Not a very good return on your investment.

4. Litter pollutes rivers, creeks, lakes, and streams. Rain carries litter on the ground into local waterways and eventually to oceans where worldwide 9 billion tons of litter winds up every year. Litter doesn't just disappear. Items like aluminum cans can last 100 years, and plastic bottles just might be around forever. So, at the current rate, how long will it take to completely fill the oceans?

5. Litter is a breeding ground for many germs and pathogens. It's hard to quantify how much that costs us in health care but discarded fast food wrappers are a magnet for mosquitos, flies, roaches, rats, and other animals which carry dangerous vector diseases and spread them directly or indirectly to humans.

Bottom line, if you litter, stop doing it. If we all would take a few minutes to properly dispose of trash, this one action multiplied by millions of people every day would create an enormous economic benefit for everyone. Just think how an extra $11.5 billion could be used for things that actually improve our lives.