Litter goes where people do — and increasingly, it seems that Nevada has become the West’s litter capital. Thanks to high tourism rates and low regulation, Nevada continues to rank high on the list of worst states for litter pollution with both cities and natural spaces choked by various types of human waste. Worse, few Nevadans recognize how littered their state has become, and almost no one is doing anything to counteract it.
While statewide anti-litter campaigns and greater enforcement of litter laws are absolutely warranted, there could be another solution on the horizon: hemp. Read on to learn how hemp could help combat litter not just in Las Vegas and Nevada but across the world.
Why Nevada Leads Western States in Litter
It might seem that litter is a straightforward problem with a straightforward solution: If more people were conscientious about their immediate environment and the surrounding community, they wouldn’t drop trash on the ground. Indeed, laziness and carelessness are some significant causes of litter — especially in tourist destinations like Las Vegas, where tourists only visit for a short while and spend their time indulging in convenience, comfort and sometimes even debauchery. Many travelers to Nevada lack a personal connection to the place, and thus they are more likely to overlook the act of littering considering the benefit of carrying on with their vacation.
However, there are other reasons Nevada seems to succumb more seriously to litter: its inability to escape trash. In other states, a lack of available land for landfills drives residents to reduce their waste and find other eco-friendly solutions to waste management, like recycling. However, land is something Nevada has in abundance, and much of Nevada’s land is remarkably cheap. Thus, instead of developing more robust recycling programs or searching for alternatives to destructive and disgusting waste, Nevadans continue to simply throw things away. Some of the trash that travels to landfills never makes it there, and it litters city streets, highways and the landscape around the landfill. However, the primary problem with Nevada’s heavy reliance on landfills is the habit of creating more and more trash, which leads to seeing more trash around and not worrying so much about the visible litter.
It should go without saying that litter shouldn’t be an acceptable feature of the environment. Litter doesn’t merely look unpleasant; it can also harm the environment, allowing toxic chemicals to leech into soils and water supplies and emit dangerous vapors to pollute the air. Wildlife is particularly susceptible to the dangers of litter, sometimes confusing brightly colored plastic trash as food or becoming entangled in litter snares. Nevada isn’t a dead landscape, but the state could become one if it maintains its penchant for trash and litter.
What Hemp Can Do to Reduce the Problem
Thanks to the rise in visibility of cannabis culture, more people are recognizing the utility of cannabis in various industries — and waste management could be one of them. Hemp is a notably versatile material that can take the form of all sorts of paper goods, fabrics and tough, flexible, non-petroleum plastics. Because hemp grows quickly and biodegrades, hemp is a sustainable solution to the issue of trash. Conceivably, litter made from hemp would dissolve into the landscape, perhaps even providing some kind of nutritive benefit to the environment.
Unfortunately, transitioning all disposable products into hemp isn’t an entirely viable solution. First, science hasn’t been able to develop a bioplastic derived from hemp (or any other plant, for that matter) to replace every type of plastic on the market. Plastic beverage bottles, for instance, are made with only about 30 percent plant-based materials because 100-percent hemp bottles aren’t as durable and are much, much more expensive.
However, more importantly, hemp doesn’t entirely solve the immediate issue of litter. Demanding sustainable solutions to the issue of trash, like the creation of hemp-based products, is a good step to breaking Nevada’s trash habit, but it isn’t the only step. Nevadans should strive to increase regulation on littering to discourage everyone, including travelers, from dropping waste on the street. Fortunately, some groups in Nevada have taken great strides toward these solutions, even becoming the best anti-litter program in the nation.
It is easy to ignore litter or write it off as coming from a selfish and insensitive person, but when a state suffers so seriously from litter as Nevada does, action needs to be taken. Investing in sustainable solutions, like hemp, are something Nevadans should seriously consider going forward in their anti-trash journey.