What exactly is littering? Can you be littering and not even know it? Littering is the careless act of throwing your trash out in the wrong places. The problem is not just your litter, but the added harm if we all choose to be careless about our waste. Although some forms of garbage may seem barely noticeable, such as used cigarettes, the truth is that any waste added to our landscape is harmful. The proper place for used cigarettes, bottles, food packaging, household goods, and food scraps is in the waste bin. Litter is the most visible form of pollution in the environment. Improperly disposed materials will be dangerous for the environment and people in the area. Consider your actions when you throw away certain materials like plastic, which can be eaten unknowingly by animals or entrap them and lead to their death. 

Generally, littering and waste is a significant contributor to environmental and human health-related problems. Most of the waste in Palestine – 69%! – is dumped in random dumpsites in makeshift areas.

It is estimated that 450 uncontrolled dumpsites exist but there are likely many more. Waste management presents a large problem for most Palestinians, as adequate access to sanitary dumping sites proves to be difficult. Circumstances have led to restricted access to waste dumping sites. It’s hard for people to throw away garbage properly, since many collection areas are over 500 meters from the household: imagine if every time you needed to take the garbage out, you had to walk half a kilometer away with your garbage bag. Out of convenience, some families will turn small, open spaces in close proximity to their homes into make shift waste disposal sites. The long-term solution is to create more waste management facilities to adequately process different forms of waste created in Palestine. 

You can see the plight of the Palestinian landscape through the trash that builds up in the streets and in the nearby nature areas. It’s a fact of everyday life here that in some rural areas agricultural products are grown in the midst of festering garbage. Only 33% of waste is disposed of in landfills and proper waste disposal sites. Trash is a visual eyesore for the landscape but also a severe health hazard – and the problem is growing. Dead animal carcasses thrown away rot in nature and give off a putrid smell. The bothersome smell can attract animals that may eat the dead animal and be poisoned from bacteria if it is not disposed of properly. ARIJ estimates that the costs from human diseases caused by improper waste disposal are projected to total $909 million (USD) over the first two decades of this century.

One particular form of waste is harder to spot. We don’t necessarily think of medicine as a form of pollution. Today, sophisticated medical equipment requires special treatment to properly recycle the heavy metals from routine procedures – syringes, sharp knives, packaging, and some chemicals. It is estimated that 2,000 tons of medical waste was generated in 2011.  If left to decompose naturally, components of medical waste can disintegrate into the soil and be consumed through your drinking water and may be found in traces of natural foods, such as the vegetables. Even pharmaceutical products to treat some medical conditions are a silent hazard to those living nearby – for example, leftover hormonal medications in pill form that end up in the water and ground soil.