HOW EYESORES START
Litter and illegal dumping often are the earliest indications a neighborhood is in distress. Trash is much like graffiti or an abandoned car, reflecting a lack of interest in that neighborhood.
According to the "broken window theory," gangs, illegal dumpers and drug dealers usually won't enter neighborhoods that appear safe and organized. They wait to be silently invited by distress indicators such as littered streets, abandoned homes and illegal dump sites.
Once the downward spiral begins, litter creates dump sites, abandoned cars lead to vacant homes and graffiti invites street crime. The trend becomes expensive, time consuming and extremely difficult to reverse.
PREVENTING THE SPIRAL
Recycling helps the community reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills. Putting items out for collection or dropping them off at a local center, however, is only the first step in the recycling process.
Buy recycled items: Consumers "close the loop" when buying items or packaging made from recycled materials. The circle becomes full: from bag or bin to a manufacturer, to the store shelf, and back to the home.
Without a market for products made of recycled materials, local recycling programs will become more costly. Fewer recyclables may be collected and processed. More reusable material will end up in landfills and communities will need to deal with an increased amount of garbage.
Finding products made from recycled material: Products and packaging made from recycled material are everywhere. Many products are identified recycled or partially recycled on the label or on the product itself. Some products and packaging also have labels describing the amount of "pre-consumer" and "post-consumer" waste that was used.
Do your part: Personal responsibility is the hallmark of Keep America Beautiful. Don't litter, and pick up trash when you see it. That includes cigarette butts, too. Paint over graffiti. Recycle.
WHAT KIDS CAN DO
There are many things kids can do around the neighborhood or at school to fight blight, such as setting an example by not littering. Here are more ways:
1. When putting out the trash at home, make sure the garbage can lids are on tight and all the trash goes into the can. Tie up loose papers that could blow out of the recycling bin.
2. If parents have a car, make litter bags for them. Keep the yard clean and free of things that can blow into the street and become litter.
3. If the school playground doesn't have a litter basket, have a teacher ask the school to put one out. Classes can make and put up posters reminding other students to put litter where it belongs.
4. Whenever visiting a park or beach, carry out what's brought in. Keep unwanted items in a bag or backpack until they can be put in a litter basket.
Source: Keep America Beautiful Inc.