Littering: The Big Issue is We Need to Clean Up


Ryland Winterbottom

Doherty’s JROTC is seen helping clean up garbage around school grounds.

Litter. We’ve all seen it at some point or another. At school, in our neighborhoods, even on roadways. How big of a problem is littering here at Doherty? The truth is, it’s a giant problem. Whether it is fast-food trash from lunch, or just people’s random trash, most of it does not make it into a waste bin, and it ends up impacting our community in a huge way. 

 According to a study conducted in 2009 by Keep America Beautiful, a non-profit organization, about 76% of litter on roads is due to pedestrians and people in vehicles knowingly getting rid of it, while only about 19.9% comes from discarded items flying out of trash cans. A lot of the litter you can find around our school is from students’ lunches. McDonalds bags and wrappers are some of the main items found around campus along with other fast food remnants.

  The litter at Doherty can be found everywhere, including on the floor of the cafeteria, out in the courtyard, around the tennis courts, in the parking lots, and many other places. Why is it such a huge problem for Doherty? The answer is that most people just seem to not care. They think that it’s not their problem. Or they just think that someone else will pick it up for them. However, some students have things to say on the issue. One of those students is Jayse Villalobos, a senior here at Doherty. “Littering is a big problem and students do almost nothing to prevent it. The one thing going in a good direction is the staff putting new trash cans in the parking lot. People who go out to eat lunch or outside the building should not litter because we already have trash cans outside. There is no excuse.” 

 One of our clubs here at Doherty is the Environmental Club. The advisor of the club, Angelique Seay had this to say about our litter problem, “I think littering is such a big issue because the students that litter may lack school pride and in turn think someone else will be picking up their trash. I’ve been teaching here for about 10 years and in my opinion, littering around campus has always been a big problem.

What is the significant impact of littering? It directly affects climate change. Litter creates chemicals and microparticles that can get into waterways and soil. That affects not only us humans, but animals too. According to an article by Texas Disposal Systems, “60% of water pollution is attributed to litter.” A few lines later in the article, it discusses how litter can also contribute to air pollution, “Researchers estimate that more than 40% of the world’s litter is burned in the open air, which can release toxic emissions. These emissions can cause respiratory issues, other health problems and even be a starting base for acid rain.” 

During the beginning of the month on January 1st, the state enacted a 10 cent tax on plastic bags to help try and combat our waste and pollution issues. It was signed by Governor Jared Polis back in 2021. According to KOAA News 5, “Businesses will give 60% of the revenue from the fees to the local government in which they operate. The government can only spend the money on bag fee enforcement and waste diversion programs. The other 40% of the revenue is for businesses to keep.” The new law will eventually ban the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam containers in 2024. Some exceptions will be put in place with the ban as said by The Colorado Sun, “Restaurants that prepare or serve food in individual portions for immediate on- or off-premises consumption would be exempt, as would stores that operate solely in Colorado and have three or fewer locations. Businesses that are still allowed to offer plastic bags must collect a fee of at least 10 cents on each bag. The fee may be higher if a city or county enacts a higher charge.” There are also exceptions when it comes to Styrofoam. “The only exception is that restaurants will be able to continue using Styrofoam products for takeout after that date until their existing inventory is gone.” There are also cities that already have a fee of more than 10 cents in place such as Aspen and Boulder. 

 Here at Doherty our litter can also directly impact the local businesses. Trash from the parking lots mixed with our windy weather can blow the garbage into surrounding parking lots such as that of Skate City. According to our principal, Ms. Lana Flenniken,  “ I think the issue is brought on by multiple factors.  The two biggest being that we don’t have an adequate amount of trash cans located outside and that currently some students don’t take pride in how our school looks.  They just don’t care.  Not all but some.” She also stated that, “We used to have recycling in the cafeteria but again, some students put regular trash in them and the recycling is handled by the Environmental Club, not D11 employees, so it became hazardous for us to have them in the cafeteria and having students separate trash from recyclable materials.” Ms. Flenniken also said that she believes litter is a bigger issue now than it used to be but she doesn’t have any data to back it up.

As stated in the previous paragraph, animals are also directly affected. According to an article by Guilford County, “Researchers estimate that over one million animals die each year after becoming entrapped in or ingesting litter. The most common killer of animals is plastic litter, notably impacting marine animals.” Not only marine animals are killed from litter. In the next paragraph of the article, it talks about how birds are another affected group of animals. “Depending on the type of litter, birds can die from ingesting poisons from moldy food, cigarette butts, and other harmful substances. Plastic, balloons, and brightly colored pieces of litter [look] irresistible to foraging birds but can’t be digested. These items stay in the digestive tract blocking food passage and eventually the bird will starve.” This just happens to be one of the many reasons we need to be more cautious when eating our lunches outside. We might not have marine life here, but we have plenty of birds. 

 In an article about litter’s impact on our world by Sciencing, it states that, “A study released in 2020 found that the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, spends more than $48 million cleaning up and preventing litter each year. Many cities have street sweeping programs that keep streets clear of trash and prevent litter from entering storm water drains.” The study was originally published on the official website for the city of Philadelphia. According to the Gazette, here in Colorado Springs alone back in April of 2022 the city launched a 2.7-million-dollar effort to help combat all the litter. 

 Littering is a terrible thing that we must all combat together. Here are some of the ways that you as an individual can help stop littering in and around our community. In an article by, they made a list of 9 things you can do. Here are just a few, number 2 on their list is to not throw trash out the window in your car. Instead, they suggest you can keep a bag to put your trash into and then discard it when you reach your destination. Another tip, number 5 on the list, is to recycle. According to Rocky Mountain PBS, “only 30 cities in the state have a recycling service that accompanies their trash service. Unfortunately, six out of 10 of Colorado’s largest cities do not have this kind of program in place.” It might not be the most readily available option depending on what trash company you and your family use but could still be a good option. Finally, from this list is number 8. Help participate in community cleanups. One way Doherty has been combating this problem is by some members of the JROTC picking up trash around the exterior of the school.

 We can all help make our world a better place to live in for future generations if we start now. One of those first steps is to stop littering in our communities. What do you think? How big do you think this issue is at or around Doherty? If you would like to do some research of your own on the topic, here are all the websites we visited for our information:,kind%20of%20program%20in%20place,bringing%20reusable%20bags%20with%20them.