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How Littering Harms Wildlife & Humans

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March 12, 2019

Announcer: Farm and family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service. 

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about how littering harms wildlife and humans. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to farm and family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Daryl Jones Mississippi State University extension wildlife specialist. Darryl I've heard that littering is harmful to the planet, but I'd so much rather just toss my trash into a ditch or creek. I mean if its on my property I can do what I want and how can I possibly be hurting anything by throwing out my trash outside?

Daryl Jones: Oh Amy, there's lots of damage when you throw trash just away like that piecemeal. It is easy to do cause you may own the property and whatnot but think about the damage wildlife species animals will misinterpret trash for a food item and actually ingest it. They'll eat it for food and it kills them. For example in our costal areas sea turtles which most of them are endangered, they will mistake plastic bags as jellyfish and ingest it and it kills the turtle. Not only do you kill that individual but, not meaning to throw that bag away but you killed any offspring that turtle, may have had. So it definitely has problems to wildlife and lots of other things.

Amy Myers: Well but I don't really like to hunt or fish so that doesn't really affect me right?

Daryl Jones: Oh it does, it affects the wildlife and fish. Think about going to fish at the local county lake or say on your lake and people have thrown bottles and used oil or chemicals next door and that washes in to your lake and harms your fish. And then you're eating those fish. It really devalues the outdoor recreation and your time in nature. And you know what Amy it actually devalues land values. Land, their not making any more of it so it's highly valuable and surveys and studies have shown that litter devalues the value of rural land and city lands too. So if we clean it up and do the right thing the whole economy and the land is more valuable.

Amy Myers: So if I want to sell my property one day and make some money I better not litter huh?

Daryl Jones: That's right. And I love to hunt and fish, and you know let me talk to the guys out there. It's so easy to throw away, a light beer can while driving. But throwing litter in the back of your pickup truck and then when you're going home from the hunt or from outdoor recreation or fishing that stuff blows out on the highway and then it's there for everybody to look. And let's think there was folks from wherever that we're gonna come and spend money on tourism in Mississippi but they see a lot of bags on the highway, they're not gonna come. So let's not pollute the garden, in other words.

Amy Myers: So I love to work on vehicles and washing machines and refrigerators and motorcycles, and then I love to just leave all my old parts lying around outside like antifreeze and old pieces of metal. I just like to do that because it's easier, that's fine, right?

Daryl Jones: No. I wouldn't suggest doing that. And too, some of that old metal material that you're leaving out there, it's actually valuable, so you can recycle it and they'll pay you for recycling that. Even like when you change the oil and antifreeze in your car, you collect that old oil, you can take it in to many service stations and recycling centers, and they'll accept that old oil and dispose of it properly, so you don't go out on the back 40 and pour it into the creek because that's gonna pollute Mississippi hurt while I hurt fish, devalue land.

Amy Myers: But if I dump my furniture in a ditch or outside, that's not litter, right?

Daryl Jones: That would be litter, too. And you know something else, you can actually pay a fine for doing that. Now you have to check your local county ordinances on this, but-

Amy Myers: Littering's not illegal, I'm not breaking the law.

Daryl Jones: Oh, you are. You are. [inaudible 00:03:53] County, for example, it's $100 fine for being caught littering, then you have to go to court and there's a court assessment cost which can be run up, depending on the county, up around $200. So just for throwing out that Coke can, it's gonna cost you potentially $300. That's just not worth doing it.

Amy Myers: That's not really worth it. So instead of littering, we can take our old oil to automotive shops to be recycled, we can take our old tires to automotive shops too, right?

Daryl Jones: Right. That's correct.

Amy Myers: And for more information, can we go to our sanitation department or can we just Google our city website, wherever we live?

Daryl Jones: I think that's a great idea. It just makes a whole lot of sense to keep Mississippi beautiful.

Amy Myers: Okay. Today we've been speaking with Dr. Daryl Jones, Mississippi State University Extension Wildlife Specialist. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture

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