It started with a boat, my sister said. One morning, it was discovered that someone had abandoned a boat on a formerly empty lot. Soon the boat was joined by piles of debris. Today the lot is piled high with garbage, and it all started with a boat.
I understand the attraction of adding to an existing pile. I was guilty of litter-piling when I lived in Lima, Peru, where litter was common. My friends and I even made up a rule – if there were two or more pieces of litter, it was technically a pile and we could add to it. When we visited La Paz, Bolivia, we felt no qualms peeling our carrots as we walked down the street and letting our peelings fall. We were soundly scolded by a local woman, and only then did we notice that the streets in this city were immaculate.
Two psychologists in Australia studied littering behaviors for 18 years, and wrote that their “most robust finding was that behaviour was strongly influenced by the features of the location people were in.” People were less likely to litter in places that were already clean and well maintained.
This is good news for Pliking, because it means that our efforts really do make a difference. Leaving an area completely clean reduces the likelihood that others will litter. According to studies commissioned by Keep America Beautiful, a clean area is 3 times more likely to remain clean.
Thank you for all your hard work to keep our trails and parks clean and beautiful!
Note: I lived in Lima many years ago during a period of civic unrest, which likely contributed to the amount of litter.
Spehr, Karen and Curnow, Rob. (2015). Litterology. Australia: Environment Books.
Action Research. (2009). Littering Behavior in America. California: Keep America Beautiful