We are socialized not to throw garbage on the ground and are ingrained with anti-littering campaigns throughout our entire lives. However, it’s clear that these catchy slogans didn’t stick.
Everyone knows not to litter, but somehow there’s still trash all over Humboldt’s natural spaces.
These photos were taken over a series of days in three different locations throughout Humboldt County: The Arcata Community Forest, Mad River Beach and Strawberry Rock in Trinidad.
Most of the trash seen is either recyclable or compostable.
Samantha Stone, compost director at HSU’s WRRAP, explains that orange peels and other organic waste do not naturally break down in a forest environment.
“It definitely breaks down slower than if it were in a compost bin that generates heat and has other green and brown wastes,” Stone said. “There’s also the thing of food scraps inviting nonnative critters into the woods.”
A natural space is not designed to properly decompose our trash. In fact, most of what is littered will never actually break down.
The U.S. National Park Service says that it can take five years for a cigarette butt to biodegrade, up to 40 for clothes, a million years for a glass bottle to disappear and a styrofoam cup will be around forever.
Reagan Hester, recreation administration major at HSU, described how disappointed she feels seeing trash in our national parks.
“Properly disposing of trash is such an incredibly easy thing to do,” Hester said. “Even the littlest scrap creates a distraction from the natural beauty of a national park… this is entirely unnecessary. Not to mention the depressive effects on the wildlife and their natural habitat.”
Anjelica Yee, wildlife major at HSU, thinks a huge part of it is the hierarchy of man versus nature that Western culture emphasizes.
“It feels as though people disregard the fact that this is habitat for hundreds of different native species,” Yee said. “Humans act superior to other animals and by throwing our trash in their home, it just shows that blatant disrespect of nature.”