The Litter Lifecycle


As Earth Rangers, it’s our job to protect the environment, and one of the biggest challenges we have is to stop the litter bugs around town! We know that litter can cause many problems for wildlife; it pollutes ecosystems, can look like a tasty snack for animals, and can leach toxins and chemicals into our environment. What else do we know? Picking up that litter can make a huge difference. To help make sure we tackle this issue once and for all, let’s become litter experts and dive into the lifecycle of litter to learn more!

The Litter Lifecycle

1. First, the plastic is made.

  • Did you know that more than 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year? That’s the weight of 65 million elephants! All of this plastic is made out of fossil fuels, like natural gas and crude oil.  This means that when plastic is made, it puts lots of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

2. Next, the plastic goes out into the world and gets used.

  • In the case of single-use plastics, like plastic straws, plastic bags, or disposable food and beverage containers, their lifetime is extremely brief—we’re talking mere seconds or minutes before it’s thrown away. Unfortunately, after you’ve finished with it, these plastic products will continue to exist for hundreds of years before they begin to break down.

3. And finally, the plastic is thrown away.

  • While some plastic goes to the recycling depot, a lot of it ends up in a landfill, becomes litter on the side of the road, or is incinerated (which adds even more greenhouse gas emissions).  In fact, about 2.8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in Canadian landfills every year, which is the weight of 24 CN towers!

By understanding the litter lifecycle, we can make better decisions about the products we use.  Avoiding single-use plastics, and remembering to bring your reusable bottles, bags and other products is something we all must try our best to do in order to protect our environment from plastic invasion!

Want to help put an end to litter in your neighbourhood?!  Check out the Stash the Trash Mission on the Earth Rangers App to learn how to run your very own litter pickup.