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Letter: The bigger implications of Troup County’s litter problem

We’ve all seen it when we pass through in our cars or when walking through the woods for some much-needed repose. It makes us nauseous, overwhelmed, and completely heartbroken to see such beautiful landscapes completely covered in trash. Of course, we’ve all been guilty of having had some blow off from our vehicles without knowing or not taking the time to properly recycle our materials. However, the obscene amount of littering within Troup County stems from so much more than these simple errs.

With all the cleanup events that have taken place, me and other residents know that it will take a significant shift in our environmental habits and attitudes to truly begin tackling the widespread situation. It’s great to see so many people and reputable, driven organizations striving to make our community a cleaner place to live, but simply picking up trash from time to time is only scratching the surface of this mound, literally and figuratively. It becomes perfunctory, often representative of knee-jerk reactions that humanity has when faced with threats that go beyond initial comprehension. And this is our problem: we often don’t do enough and wait until the trash becomes almost too much to clear out instead of trying to be more cognizant, to prevent this from reoccurring.

There are too many in Troup County who don’t care enough about our environment, plain and simple. Besides debate in the belief of climate change, some don’t even have the capacity to recognize the threats that litter poses which are much more than taking away some scenic views. This makes our problem multifaceted. How do we reach the people who don’t care and deliberately use the environment as a personal dump, contributing to already irreparable damage from years of this?

The pernicious effects of microplastics that contaminate our lands/waters tend to be more forgotten and underestimated. Single-use plastics is one of the most profitable industries in the United States and throughout the world, but the true cost of having these products accumulate in our environment is quickly becoming insurmountable. To articulate how devastating these materials are, a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur foundation posited that, by 2050, there could be more plastic in our oceans than fish if we remain obstinate in our neglectful habits.

Plastics don’t break down within the environment like wood or other biodegradables do, instead taking hundreds of years (if not longer) to completely do so. In addition, more wildlife succumb to them through bioaccumulation from ingestion.

Generation after generation of species inherit traces of them within their bodies, some chemicals more direct in their monstrous workings than others but harmful nonetheless. Not to forget, but the combination of synthetic chemicals magnify these dangers to biodiversity much more, and the materials that break down from all forms of litter that we see in the county do these very things.

This era of complete disregard to not only the aesthetics of our planet but to all those that inhabit it is only exacerbated by the immoral sacrifice of prestige for profit. Corporations would rather end all life as we know it just for one more crisp dollar bill, the only form of green that can’t save us and can’t oxygenate the biosphere.

Some would rather litter than feel inconvenienced by simply looking for a trash can. Only when we take action to educate the public on a wide scale about conservation and to fight for better laws will we make any sort of progress.

If we are to mitigate the damages from litter, we must all do our part, no matter how big or small it may be. If we keep thinking that someone else will fix these problems or if new scientific developments will save us the trouble of having to put in the work, time will run out for us to ensure our children and grandchildren of a better future.

Gage Bailey

Troup County