CLEAN-UP YOUR TRASH
Americans throw out more than 200 million tons of trash every year, or about 4.5 pounds per person each day. Not only does this trash create huge landfills and detract from the natural beauty of the landscape, it can also seriously harm animals and wildlife. By taking a few moments to think about the potential impact of your trash on wildlife, you can save animals' lives.
When we put out trash as garbage or even for recycling, often the items we're discarding include residues of the foods they used to contain. For raccoons, skunks, squirrels, birds, and other wildlife, these aromas of tuna, yogurt, peanut butter or other tempting foods promise a tasty treat. Unfortunately, the reality can be deadly. Plastic and glass bottles and containers can become lethal traps for small animals, including mice, lizards and skunks; six-pack rings can cause strangulation; and plastic wrap can cause fatal intestinal blockages. Discarded fishing line — which accounts for as many as one-third of all trash-related wildlife injuries — frequently ensnares animals and even causes amputation, while fishing hooks can get stuck in the mouths and throats of birds, turtles and other animals. Broken glass can cut the paws of raccoons or any animal that happens by.
For wild animals, anything that injures, traps or otherwise hinders their ability to get food and escape predators is likely to cause their death.
The good news is that much of this harm is easy to prevent. In just a few minutes, you can help make sure your trash won't injure animals and wildlife.
Wildlife-proofing your garbage is just a matter of three easy steps:
- Rinse and recycle. Make sure you recycle all recyclable plastic, glass and aluminum containers, and before you do, rinse them well to eliminate food remnants and odors that might attract wildlife in the first place.
- Cut and crush. Plastic and aluminum containers should be crushed before disposal to minimize the chance that a small animal (or even just its head) might fit and get stuck within. Six-pack rings should be snipped to eliminate the possibility of trapping, and all fishing line and string should be cut into 6-inch pieces before disposal.
- Close and cover. Always make sure your garbage is stored in a plastic or metal trash can with a secure lid before disposal. Plastic wrap should be rinsed and placed in a closed garbage bag before it is thrown out.
What about when you're hiking or camping? The best policy is to take your garbage home with you for proper recycling and disposal.
Wildlife-proofing your trash may take a few extra minutes on your part, but for animals, it can mean the difference between life and death.