How to Convince People to Stop Polluting

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Educate people about the dangers of polluting and benefits of recycling.
Educate people about the dangers of polluting and benefits of recycling. (Image: XiXinXing/iStock/Getty Images)

When a driver opts to throw his cigarette butt out of a car window instead of into a trash can, he may not realize that he is contributing to the global problem of pollution. Litter destroys the beauty of the planet and costs local governments millions of dollars to clean up. Many people may not see litter as a problem that affects them personally. If you share a few important facts with those who pollute, you may be able to convince them to help put litter in its place.

Explain that litter and pollution are health and safety hazards. Even if people do not notice it, roadside garbage attracts disease-carrying animals such as rats and bacteria. Humans suffer health problems when they live in a polluted environment.

Tell people that polluting often comes with a hefty financial price tag. Governments often use taxpayer dollars to clean up the litter that accumulates in the environment. If a person is caught littering by law enforcement, he may receive a ticket that costs him hundreds of dollars.

Describe the realities of the water cycle and urban runoff. Explain that litter often ends up in waterways such as lakes, rivers and oceans. Even if pollution occurs miles from a water source, it can be carried there by animals, a rainstorm or the wind. Polluted water is not safe to drink or use for swimming or fishing.

Make the case that pollution and litter are not problems that will just go away on their own. If people you're addressing believe that litter will quickly decompose, explain that many pieces of trash can take decades to break down, or perhaps even longer. For instance, it takes a cigarette butt up to 10 years to decompose, while a plastic bag may take up to 500 years. Pollution is a problem that will be passed on to future generations unless you act.

Point out that someone's carelessness can kill marine life and other wildlife, not to mention domestic pets. Litter can be ingested by animals, causing fatal injuries.

Tell people that acting locally can help stop pollution. Encourage them to keep a trash receptacle in their car and empty the receptacle into a garbage can, rather than throwing trash from car windows. Instruct others to keep lids on their trash cans so garbage is not blown out or removed by animals. If a person owns a truck, ask him to ensure that all items in the truck bed are safely tied down before driving. Look for products with less packaging to reduce waste and litter.

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