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The Psychology Behind Littering

A large percentage of litter is household toxic substances and trash that people dispose of in water or on the land. The litter might be unintentional or intentional, small or large, but its effects on the environment can last for many years and affect our lives. Therefore, before you toss anything else out through the window or doing it how the other people in your area does it, you will have to consider the benefits of upcycling, reusing, recycling and disposing of garbage in the right way. Littering has been a huge environmental problem in most cities and generally, the litter consists of old soda cans, fast-food bags and worn out sneakers.

Most people believe that kids dump the largest portion of the litter. After all, they go out at night to drink, smoke and litter. The joggers who like looping around the majestic reservoirs 30 feet below are also likely to pack in and out and carry several plastic bags. The next time someone trashes your most favourite spot, what will you do? Will you start cleaning it immediately so that he/she can feel bad and help? Or will you stake out that spot at night to give the drunken people a piece of mind? That is important, but why do people dump? What is the psychology behind it?

People are unlikely to dump in the litter-free environments

Psychologists believe that the homeless, kids, joggers and hikers do not litter just because they are lazy and they do not care. In the last decade, late night reservoir viewers left the sites with small detritus and broken glass. Psychologists believe that people litter in the already littered places and refrain from littering in pristine environments. Littering occurs when the cans, plastic bags and broken glass inform the person hold them that that is the perfect place to dump them. Pristine environments inform the person that they are not ready for any litter.

A good example of the sensitivity of people to social norms came from the study that took place at the Petrified Forest National Park of Arizona. The aim of the study was to prevent the visitors from taking the fossilised wood from the park paths. The visitors pocketed a lot of wood including after they read the sign – the signs discouraged the pocketing of the petrified wood. The researchers concluded that the signs were like telling the visitors that others were stealing the fossilised wood and so, they could do that too. After including the number of stolen wood on the signs the number of stolen pieces increased by around five times than when the signs just discouraged them not to do that.

The environmentally minded social psychologists claim that when someone picks the litter of someone else, they are possibly doing more than cleaning up. He is sending information to the other walkers, joggers and drinkers that the environment is litter-free. The study showed why smokers rarely put their cigarette butts in plastic bags and will rarely take them to the trash until other smokers do that. When we see other people cleaning up the environment, then they take in the message that keeping the environment litter-free is socially desirable.

Selfishness does not contribute to littering

Psychologists believe that the serial litterers are not selfish. They believe that they can dump rubbish in any place if there is someone to do the job of picking it up. And when the cities place the recycling containers or trash in public spaces, individuals start using them. That might tell us that those individuals who litter in your area care about the environment. However, caring can be too inconvenient and a real hassle and they will, therefore, litter in any place.

The highly littered districts are the poorer ones, but you should start seeing litter as a class issue. If you focused on class and point fingers on particular social-economic groups, you will be in the wrong path. Psychologists believe that it is not the people on the lower income side inclined to litter but the areas they live in are likely to accumulate more litter due to poor infrastructure and lack of investment.

The presence of litter is predictive of the littering behaviours. Therefore, if you are living in a place that is highly littered, you are likely to litter than you would do if the place were free of litter or clean. If invested in keeping the environment clean, we will make a huge difference. We must work with our neighbours and invest in garbage cans to make the work of garbage pickup easier.

At Paul’s Rubbish Removal, we help the removal of litter, rubbish and waste for residential and commercial spaces in Sydney. With affordable prices and 24 hours of availability, there is no better service to reach out to get your garbage picked up and disposed of instantly.

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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