By Lauren Brant
Sheridan County is comprised of landscapes from plains and the Sandhills to the Black Hills, but the beauty is being covered with trash. It’s not the radioactive waste, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or even other toxic fuels; it’s plastic, fast food, cans, and more.
The definition of litter as per state statute encompasses all waste material thrown out on a property within the state, except for wastes of farming or manufacturing. State statute 28-523 explains that when people litter, they “shall be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.” Any subsequent offenses will result in Class II and Class I misdemeanors. The fine is $500.
Of the over 8.3 billion metric tons of products becoming trash, 6.3 billion metric tons become waste in landfills. Within the trash, the most common litter item is fast food containers. From the presence of plastics, scientists have found it blocks sewage systems, disrupts waterways, and affects the ecosystem’s life.
Animals cannot digest plastic – since it takes over 400 years to degrade, which causes toxins in the plastic to seep into the animal’s bloodstream. After the levels rise to a certain level, the animal succumbs to death.
Cans, plastic, boxes, and bottles can also pose a safety risk when residents mow their ditches along county roads and in open range grazing areas. When residents mow their ditches and a mower or trimmer runs over the trash, the machine can throw the debris at speeds up to 200 mph. This not only creates safety issues but also spreads smaller shards of trash. Livestock, domestic animals, and humans can be cut by sharp edges on cans and bottles, animals can get their heads stuck in the bottles and jars as they look for food scraps, animals and children can choke on small pieces of glass or cans and cut their lips and feet.
Over the course of a week, bags of trash were picked up and disposed of along a stretch of road in Sheridan County. It’s time to have community pride in the rolling hills of Nebraska’s landscape. It’s time to clean up and not contribute to the litter so the beauty remains.