Earth Day 2023: Upcoming Mukilteo Community Cleanup

Hi, I am Leighton! Allow me to introduce myself! I am thirteen years old and I am fairly new to Mukilteo, but have quickly fallen in love with the beauty of this city. I became passionate about litter when I saw a bunch of it in my neighborhood and ever since then I strive to live a litter free life. 

Have you ever gone on a walk in your neighborhood?  You have the warm sun hitting your back; you hear melodic songs birds sing; and you admire the bright elegant flowers all around you. You stop for a moment to take in the natural beauty our wonderful state has to offer. Then, when you look down, you don’t see the green, velvety grass you were expecting. Instead, you are bombarded with discarded empty soda cans, deflated chip bags, and cigarettes carelessly tossed to the ground. 

This is litter. Besides it being illegal, wrong, and just plain rude – here are some facts about litter that may startle you. Litter brings down property values, kills millions of animals, stunts or even ends plant growth, contributes to climate change via greenhouse gasses, and causes air, soil, and water pollution. Washington was even ranked the fourth state with the nastiest air quality, thanks to litter.  Did you know a bag of chips can take ten to twenty years to decompose, or that cigarettes can take eighteen months to ten years to dissolve? 

Litter destroys  animals’ natural homes, and there is nothing they can do about it. We should be truly grateful that we have eagles, squirrels, moose, bunnies, and all of our domestic pets like our beloved doggies that live in our same exact ecosystem.

To quote Guilford County, “Over one million animals die each year after becoming entrapped in or ingesting litter”. Yep, you read that right, over one million animals a year. These animals are innocent. All they are doing is living their lives while our human litter is responsible for their deaths. Animals cannot pick up trash and throw it away, but we can. We can either be responsible for both saving an animal’s life, or ending one. Everytime we litter, or pick-up litter, there is a huge impact on our wildlife. We get to make a choice every day on where we want to put our trash, but don’t forget that our actions don’t just affect us, and the planet, but our little four-legged friends too.

We are so fortunate to live in a state with such natural abundant beauty thanks to the mountains, evergreen trees, and the Pacific ocean. We have the stunning Mukilteo Beach so close to us, and litter can move over thousands of miles in the wind, which means that our litter can end up in the storm drains, and go straight into the Pacific Ocean. The beach is meant to be enjoyed by friends and family, on a nice sunny day, hearing the screams of excitement from little kids, and the delicious smell of barbecue after a day at the water playing so hard. The beach is not designed to hold trash. Trash cans were invented for that reason.

One in five people litter (twenty percent), which leads to all the litter we have in our world. As of 2021, WA’s population was over seven million people, and if all of us carelessly threw even just one piece of garbage on the ground, that would mean over seven million pieces of trash in our 71,300 square mile home, meaning that there would be over ninety-eight pieces of trash per one square mile. That gives me goosebumps on how physically repelling that is.

Litter is also responsible for the spread and growth of disease. According to the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), “Litter can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria and can spread disease through direct or indirect contact with humans. Mismanaged trash may also attract pests or cause fires”.

Trash can sink into the soil which will sink into the ocean and spread all kinds of disease all over the place. Also, snow and rainfall can hold disease from litter, and spread even faster that way. Litter also attracts pests like rats which are huge carriers of sickness and disease. Even a little litter like cigarette buds can cause or help spread fires. A little fire can turn into a big fire with litter on the ground helping it grow. 

Also, litter leads to land pollution by leaching into our lakes, streams, and rivers, which can eventually spread into our ocean! Once litter gets into the ocean, it can be very hard to fish out, but it is a lot easier when it is on the ground. According to the Department of Ecology State of Washington, “Since 1971, a 0.015% tax on retail sales of items typically found in roadside litter funds Washington’s litter, waste reduction, and recycling programs. This tax generates about $11.4 million a year for the Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Litter Control Account (WRRLCA). Our WRRLCA budget varies each biennium based on funds from the Legislature and the litter tax”.

This means that over eleven million dollars of taxpayer’s money goes just to litter, something so simple as picking up litter that was thrown inconsiderately on the ground. 

Now, you might be wondering what you can do to help?

Well, I have a solution. You can throw your trash in the garbage, and I know how annoying it can be to have to hold on to trash for a long time, but trust me, it is worth the wait. It is worth saving animals. It is worth saving sea life. It is worth saving our city. You can also pick up other trash when you see it and put it in the trash can. And finally, you can come to Mukilteo’s first Annual Clean-Up day on April 22nd to celebrate Earth day!

As Sherry Anderson once stated, “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”  We only have one planet as cool as Earth, one planet that each and everyone of us, animals, and sea-life call home. Our planet gives us shelter, beauty, and the ability to create and live life. For all the blessings Earth has given us, why not give a little present back this Earth Day? Check out the link below to sign up and get all the details –

Hope to see you there, and remember, let’s live a litter-free life for not only us, but all the animals and the Earth. Let’s do it for all of us.

Leighton Serrano, Mukilteo

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