An empty Starbucks cup, crumpled Bojangles containers, and discarded candy wrappers all sound like they should be found in trash cans but are instead found on the floors of lecture halls, by bike stands, on stair railings and countless other places around campus. These items are big enough to be seen and easily picked up but are left by peers for other students to find and discard. When trash is left behind, it is the student's responsibility to clean it up. 

Outside, a trash or recycling bin is always close by. In fact, "there are hundreds of outdoor recycling bins throughout UNC Charlotte's campus," according to Facilities Management's website. There are also countless bins inside different buildings to drop off trash. In addition, each floor in every residence hall has a designated trash room with a large recycling bin and multiple trash containers. Yet, even with these measures, people leave litter all around. 

Campus Litter

Photo of discarded litter on campus

Sometimes trash isn't the only thing left behind. Items found include old beverage cups and wrappers—but also more valued items such as valuable coins, backpack pins, jewelry, mechanical pencils and drawings. These objects can hold sentimental or economic value and are often not discarded lightly. Now, these things are in trash cans or someone else's pockets instead of being with owners.  

As global environmental issues worsen, garbage pickup has become even more critical. Last year, North Carolina's Department of Transportation broke a state record and reported that over 13 million pounds of garbage were collected in North Carolina. This cost the state 19 million dollars, according to a recent article from Fox8. Other UNC system schools have also written on this issue. Such examples include cigarette littering at UNC Asheville, roadside littering at NC State, spring break littering at UNC Greensboro and dining hall garbage at UNC Chapel Hill. Since other schools have begun uncovering and solving the problem, we should too.

Students are busy and are under constant stress from classes, friendships, club activities and much more. All students share this stress, but we also share something else: a desire for respect. Leaving trash behind disrespects the students who will be in that space after you. All students pay to be here, whether with money or hard work in sports or academics, so let's respect the places we paid for. We all deal with so much: deadlines, drama, personal and interpersonal upkeep, so we shouldn't have to deal with dirty surroundings as well. 

If you can and have the time to, pick up the trash around you. Take the smoothie cup to the trash can, bring the discarded papers to the recycling bin and pick up candy wrappers. Check your space for personal belongings that could be unconsciously left. Leave all public areas the way you found them—the way you would want someone to leave them for you.