All trash is bad trash when it’s thrown out your window

Published 9:07 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2019

I love driving down the road and watching for hawks. It’s always amazing to me how many you can see right along the roadside. They are watching and waiting for food.

Sometimes they are in huge fields, which makes sense because those fields are probably full of mice and other rodents they would love to munch on. However, sometimes they are right next to the road on a fence or on a pole. It seems like the food there next to the road would be slim pickings.

But there can actually be plentiful food for hawks roadside because there is unfortunately plentiful food for their prey roadside, as well. Presenters from Liberty Nature Center, a Somerset-based raptor rehabilitation center, recently enlightened me on this phenomenon.

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Hawks are often along the roadside are there because there are mice along the roadside, according to Liberty. The mice are there because people throw litter out their windows while they are driving and that attracts the mice.

This proves to be a deadly situation for the birds because they wind up looking for food (mice) in a high-risk area where they are more likely to be struck by a passing vehicle.

I’m sure people who are throwing litter out of their windows aren’t thinking they could be injuring or killing birds, but it’s very likely. I’ll admit I have thrown out apple cores and other biodegradable items before, thinking that it’s only littering if it’s trash like fast food wrappers.

I have always avoided throwing any “real” trash anywhere except a trash can. That includes biodegradable trash such as paper. Even though paper does go away eventually, it’s still trash in my mind when you throw it out a window.

But for a long time, it seemed totally fine to me that I could throw apple cores or other food items out the window and there would be no consequences. Well, I was wrong.

This makes me wonder about some of the other dead animals I’ve seen on the sides of the road. While I know that some of the animals are killed when they are crossing the road and it has nothing to do with food, I can’t help but wonder if some of the animals that I see dead on the side of the road like skunks or groundhogs ended up that way because they found a tasty treat on the side of the road. It’s unfortunate either way. I’m definitely not throwing anything out of my windows anymore.

I actually have some really cool reusable bags that I use for trash and recycle to keep it all contained and sorted until I’m able to properly dispose of it. Those will be getting more use now that I have more information.

Education really is key when it comes to treating our environment and animals well. People do things all the time that are bad for the environment or hurt local animals because they don’t understand what the consequences of their actions are. If they understood the consequences more fully, they would make different choices.

So, it’s up to those of us who have learned about the consequences of an action such as throwing food waste on the roadside to educate those who haven’t yet learned. But it’s important that we don’t look down on the people we’re trying to share information with. We have to remember that we made the same bad choices, or easily would have, without the information we’re trying to share.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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