Insufficient waste disposal continues to be one of the more pressing problems affecting our planet. But while awareness of the global benefits of environmental sustainability continues to seemingly increase every year, the fact of the matter remains that we still have a long way to go in terms of reversing the impacts of rampant pollution.

Consider the fact that in recent years, global plastic waste has exceeded global plastic production by 275 million tons to 270 million tons. While much of that can be chalked up as sheer negligence, it’s reasonable to assume that most of our pollution is due to an overall lack of awareness of proper, sustainable waste solutions.

The need for spreading more awareness of effective waste management is more urgent than ever, especially when it comes to understanding what types of waste are most threatening to the environment when not properly disposed of.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous trash items currently polluting our planet, as well as determine the most suitable methods for disposing of them.

Cigarette Butts

Even if you don’t smoke cigarettes, it’s essentially all but guaranteed you’ll come across a few, if not a few dozen, littered on the ground while you’re out and about. While many would assume that plastic bottles or containers would be the most common form of plastic pollution in the world, the correct answer is actually cigarettes.

Cigarette filters, or butts as they’re commonly referred to, not only contain plastic in them but are officially the most commonly littered form of plastic in the world, with an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts currently polluting our planet.

What makes cigarette butts even more concerning when not properly disposed of is their toxic consequences, ranging from their arsenic and lead ingredients to their lethal chemicals impacting water supplies and marine life.

The least you can do if you are a smoker is to throw your cigarettes away in the trash instead of flicking them out onto the street or sidewalk, as cigarette butts can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to organically be broken down.

Plastic Shopping Bags

Here are just a few concerning statistics regarding our usage of plastic shopping bags:

●        Americans use more than 100 billion plastic shopping bags every year, which requires an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to produce.

●        The average American family accumulates around 1,500 plastic shopping bags every year.

●        An estimated 1 percent of plastic shopping bags are returned or reused for recycling.

●        Around 100,000 marine lives are taken by plastic shopping bag pollution every year.

The alarming statistics regarding plastic shopping bags go on and on. The important thing to keep in mind moving forward is how to properly dispose of them. If there are #2 or #4 plastic symbols on any plastic shopping bags you obtain, then those bags are completely recyclable.

Many grocery stores and retail outlets also accept plastic shopping bag returns so they can be reused. The bottom line is to keep reusing any plastic shopping bags in your possession as much as possible, and ask for paper shopping bags or bring your own reusable shopping bags while shopping.


Another central area of concern is the amount of electronic waste that is beginning to emerge in different countries worldwide. Some of the items do contain valuable materials, but these are also combined with toxic substances that can create a massive impact on environmental health.

In 2019 alone, The US generated 6.92 million tons of the waste and recycled only 15% of the material. The two ways to combat this is to make sure individuals get educated on properly recycling their items or consider purchasing used items instead of new ones when applicable.


Balloons are a popular choice used at celebrations, but unfortunately, they are severely toxic to the environment after use. In most cases, they will be released into the sky, and as the balloon gets higher, the helium will begin to expand and eventually cause the material to burst.

Because of this, the tiny pieces will end up in the oceans and on land creating a hazardous situation. Balloons may seem like a festive choice, but the outcome they can produce can be deadly and one way to help create a waste solution for this is to look for more eco-friendly party options.

Plastic Utensils & Lids

Other areas that are growing by leaps and bounds are plastic utensils and lids. The items take a large amount of energy to produce and end up releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This can become destructive when combined with CO2, and with almost 40 billion individual pieces being produced in the US alone, this is an alarming number.

Two alternatives are swapping out and purchasing reusable cutlery or picking biodegradable options that will break down naturally and not accumulate.

Plastic lids are also problematic because unless they are biodegradable or recyclable they can't be sent to recycling services due to the material that they are made from. There are also hazardous chemicals in them, which can also possibly leach into the container with which the lid is attached.

An alternative to using the lids is to purchase a reusable coffee cup to cut back on the amount of product being used and potentially create a healthier item you are consuming.

Fishing Gear

Fishing gear is also topping the list of problematic items because items including fishing lines, nets, traps, and buoys are just discarded and left behind in the water. This becomes an issue because as the material breaks down or just sits in the water, it can affect the ocean life and cause death or injury to the animals.

In most cases, once a piece of fishing tackle is gone, in many cases, birds, turtles, and seals are the most likely to endure harm from the items.

One way to combat this is to use proper fishing practices by being responsible for your gear and taking the time to make sure that nothing is discarded or left behind.

Food Packaging

Fast-food burger wrappers, styrofoam to-go containers, disposable coffee cups; more often than not, all of these common forms of food packaging wind up being improperly disposed of and destined for landfills. In fact, out of all the municipal solid waste produced in the U.S., more than 63 percent of that waste stemmed from packaging materials for food and other products, while only 35 percent of that packaging waste was properly recycled or composted.

What’s difficult with properly disposing of various types of food packaging is that they can’t all be lumped together in terms of recycling or throwing away in the garbage.

For example, the following common food packaging materials should not be mixed in with recycling:

●        Compostable bags or film-based packaging

●        Salad mix bags

●        Chip bags

●        Candy wrappers

●        Rings for six-packs

Those items should not be disposed of in your curbside recycling bin and should either be dropped off at specific recycling centers or locations or sorted out by professional waste management services.

Plastic Bottles & Caps

There are almost too many environmentally alarming statistics regarding plastic bottles and cap pollution. The bottom line is that in order to spare the planet of the tens of billions of plastic bottles and caps that pollute the planet every year, they need to be properly recycled.

Here’s how to properly recycle plastic bottles and caps:

●          Leave the caps on your plastic bottles

●          Crush them before disposing in recycling bins

●          Recycle any excess packaging they initially were packaged with

●          Any plastic bottles with a recycling number 1, 2, or 5 are suitable for curbside recycling

Help Save Our Planet With LJP Waste Solutions

The bottom line when it comes to properly disposing of hazardous trash items is having access to effective waste management resources. That’s where LJP Waste Solutions comes in, offering efficient sustainable waste solutions for both residential and commercial clients alike.

If you’re eager to commit to environmental sustainability, contact us today to learn more about our waste management process, or give us a call at 507.625.1968 to speak directly with one of our waste management experts.