15th September 2022

How can we keep the environment clean?

Littering is the bad habit of leaving trash in public spaces or carelessly throwing it away. Mr Jean-Pierre Santer, co-founder of “Pickitup”, says that this problem is getting worse and that education is needed to improve the situation.

1. How much of a littering problem do we have in Luxembourg?

Littering is an issue that knows no borders, so it cannot be limited to Luxembourg alone. It should be viewed as a universal problem. The effects of littering and its consequences are readily apparent. All you have to do is walk through our streets, parks or forests to see the vast quantities of trash now present in nature. This trash is hard to quantify. We don’t have any statistics, apart from the number of kilos we collected during one of our last actions in the Bonnevoie district: 17 kilos in less than two hours. This example underscores the seriousness of the littering problem in Luxembourg!

2. From a geographic standpoint, which areas are the most affected (forests, motorways, cities)?

People know no limits and there’s no lack of imagination. We have already collected many different kinds of items: bikes, toys, patio furniture, household appliances, mattresses. Generally speaking, you could say that we have found almost every type of supermarket article. We have even found some sex shop products, but that’s all I’ll say.

In addition to these specific types of trash, we also find “the usual”: plastic bottles, cans, all types of packaging, cigarette butts, etc.

The most affected spots are still generally those that are the busiest: these are mostly roads (motorways, major roads) but we also sometimes find a lot of waste dumped deep in the forest. This was the case at our last action in Gaalgebierg, in collaboration with two other associations (Beschkollektiv and Letzbotz). Just one morning wasn’t enough to clean up the entire site.

3. What are the consequences of littering? Which animals suffer?

The consequences are disastrous for nature. Although some trash is deadly for animals (e.g. straws and other plastics that can be easily swallowed), vegetation also suffers from products that do not biodegrade quickly. A plastic bottle can take well over 200 years to break down. Unfortunately, degradability is only one of the many aspects of littering. We also have pollution: one cigarette butt can, for example, pollute 500 litres of water and poison or even acidify forest land and fields.

4. In your opinion, how can we foster a more positive attitude in society to keep the environment clean?

Littering is a pervasive phenomenon in our society. I think the problem is that people are not sufficiently educated or aware. I am sure that most people know that trash belongs in the bin. But this means that the item must first be identified as trash. I’ll give you a few examples to better illustrate my point: many smokers are not aware of the pollution caused by cigarette butts. They often believe that this leftover bit will break down quickly and/or that it is not harmful to nature. The same goes for gum! Banana peels are another example: even though they are biodegradable, they take almost a  year to decompose completely.

If we could all just be more attentive to these little things we could fight littering. That’s why Pickitup’s purpose is to raise people’s awareness of littering and bad habits.

5. What five tips can you give our readers to fight littering?

5 useful tips: 

1. Don’t ignore the problem! Be aware of littering.

2. Avoid littering (e.g. if you are a smoker, use a pocket ashtray).

3. Take action: if you pick up just one piece of litter (whether it’s a bottle or a can), this translates into one less piece of litter in nature.

4. Make your friends and family aware of littering.

5. Lead by example and encourage the people around you to take an anti-littering stance.

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There is an urgent need for rapid transition to global sustainability. Business and industry have enormous social and environmental impacts. "Why does it matter?" is a bi-monthly blog that aims to elucidate this important topic through the eyes of our experts. 

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