Outdoor Indiana Magazine - July / August 2008


Explore Your Environment


Reclaiming our resources

By Michael Ellis
July/August 2008

Interpretive naturalists at our Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs talk about many interesting things. When I attended a recent naturalist program, I was surprised to hear the speaker talk about litter.

The only litter I thought we had in our parks and reservoirs was leaf litter and animal litters. Unfortunately, such is not the case.

The naturalist told us about people-made litter. She told us the next time we are sitting at a stop sign, to take a look around. We might be surprised how many empty cups, fast food wrappers and cigarette butts we see.

She told us that the environment can be harmed by people tossing out their trash and either not recycling, or not disposing of it properly. We should worry about this because it costs us a lot of money. Millions of dollars are spent each year paying people to pick up litter and dispose of it. Litter also causes health problems. As trash accumulates, it can become home for rats, mice and other pests.

Not only does litter look terrible, it can also hurt animals. They can get their heads trapped in glass jars and metal cans when trying to lick out the contents. Be sure to put the lids back on glass jars and to crush metal and plastic food containers before recycling them. Don’t break glass jars and bottles. Remember, broken glass can hurt animals and people, too.

After her talk, we went out on a “litter hike,” not to litter, of course, but to find litter. I was happy that we didn’t find much, but I was still surprised at how much we found.

We brought the litter back to the Nature Center. She told us that most of it was recyclable. We helped her put the paper, plastic, glass and cans in the proper recycling bins. She showed us the few items that were left and how much room we had saved in our landfills with our recycling efforts.

To end her program she surprised us by asking if we would like to make “litter critters” out of the remaining trash. She took the foam egg carton we had found by the campground road and some plastic bottle caps and helped us make them. Doing this yourself could remind you to reduce, reuse and recycle as often as possible

In closing, she reminded us that no matter how you say it, littering is not carelessness—it’s done consciously, and told us that stopping littering starts with us.

Here are some more interesting facts she told us about recycling:

• Glass can be recycled almost forever.
• Recycling one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
• In the United States, we throw away enough steel every year to build all the new cars made in this country.
• Seventy-five percent of a tree harvested for paper does not end up as a paper product.
• We use 4 million plastic bottles every hour, but only one bottle out of four is recycled.

Interested in finding out more about our great Indiana outdoors? Go to: interpretiveservices.IN.gov.

Make a Litter Critter

Finished Litter Critter

Supplies needed:

• Glue
• Plastic bottle caps
• A segment or segments of a foam egg carton
• Any other items that you might not normally be able to recycle.


Use either a single or several segments of an egg carton for the litter critter’s body. Use discarded objects to make eyes, mouth, legs, hair and other body parts. Glue them to the egg carton segment(s).

Hailee King carefully constructs a litter critter from common household items, with the assistance of an adult.

 Litter critter supplies Litter Critter step 1 Litter Critter step 2
 Litter critter step 3 Litter critter step 4 Litter critter step 5