The Impact We Have

A history of Litter:

Since the 1950s we have produced around 9 billion tons of disposable plastics, and it was in the mid-1950’s that people began to notice the litter start to increase. We had begun to notice the bits of trash accumulating on streets, road ways, and business areas slowly over time.. In fact The Times newspaper complained about ‘litter by the tonne’ as early as 1957. So where did this begin? It is believed that due to the boom of the domestic manufacturing industry and the mass manufacturing of plastics is when we started to develop more and more disposable goods, and as the word “disposable” implies we do not need to hold onto these trivial things. After all, because they are disposable we don’t need them, Right?

source: codepen
Source: Avantgardens on Facebook
Source: BBC News

  Today it is estimated that there are approximately 23.7 billion pieces of litter in the U.S. alone. Most of this litter consists of: 

  • Glass at 7.2%
  • Metal at 7.9%
  • Plastic at 12.7%
  • Paper at 15.2%
  • Candy and gum at 18.5%
  • Tobacco litter represents 31.5%

( These statistics come from Keep America Beautiful and

So where does all of it go?

And according to the Time: There are 24 billion pieces of litter alongside highways, and 26 billion pieces of litter along waterways in 2020. We have even accumulated 5.25 trillion pieces in the oceans! There is even a giant island of garbage floating around in the pacific ocean the size of Texas. 

Source: The Guardian
Source: Forbes

This doesn’t just affect marine life and junk up our highways/roads. Many farmers have begun to complain that the accumulation of litter has started to affect their harvest and has even damaged their Machinery. But how?

Litter can easily get caught in plows, and other heavy machinery that helps them produce the crops, these repairs can become costly and time consuming. This can be very frustrating when you consider how time sensitive it can be to run a farm or ranch, and also how little funds farmers/ ranchers have. Many of them rely on a good harvest to support themselves, especially in small farming communities. Litter has also begun to get mixed into the soil of farm lands, this can also contaminate the yield of the harvest. Again, making farmers lose money. This even affects ranchers, as their cattle can mistakenly eat litter that is mixed into their feed, this can cause illnesses, injury, or even death.

Source: CTV New Calgary

The accumulation of garbage on streets and sidewalks have begun to wash down storm drains during heavy storms, this can cause blockages that can cause streets to overflow in small areas, or it can also be washed away into local lakes, rivers, and oceans and can pollute the water making the water unsuitable for drinking or recreation. This also poses an issue for wildlife, the contaminated water can make the wild life sick, or if they see a piece of litter they may mistake it for a piece of food and choke or get sick. The 6-pack plastic rings you see on soda cans have even been known to get caught around animals necks and mouths choking them.

I have even recently discovered that there is a new rule when you climb up to Mount Everest, one of the most popular destinations in the world, that people who visit will have to pay a $4,000 deposit! This will be refunded to the person only after they bring back eight kilograms (18 pounds) of garbage! That’s right, even Mount Everest isn’t even safe! National Geographic says that that is the amount of garbage one person can produce on a climb, and that ever since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit in 1953, over 4,000 people have followed in their footsteps, and hundreds more attempt the climb each season.

Source: Mountain Planet
Source: Live Science

It’s hard to deny that our impact on the environment has been devastating, and while many of us don’t mean harm when we toss a receipt on the ground or toss a cigarette butt, it does build up. In fact, according to Keep America Beautiful most of the litter that builds up across America is 4 inches or longer. 

So, what can be done?

We can start by reducing our litter. Use reusable bags and water bottles, and what disposable trash you do have to be sure to recycle at the proper places. Many stores such as Walmart have plastic bag recycling bins near the entrances and exits, we have recycling at Legion park and at the Safeway parking lot. Reuse what you have, find a use for those glass jam containers or give them to your local thrift store. We even have glass recycling in Kimball and Ogallala. And most importantly DON’T THROW YOUR GARBAGE OUT THE WINDOW! And as it can be harmful to the animals, be sure to cut 6-pack rings so no animals can get tangled in them. Be continuous with the litter you are producing, and keep an eye out for local cleanups or start one yourself. If you see garbage lying around pick it up yourself. But remember to stay safe. If something is toxic or flammable don’t put yourself in danger! Notify local authorities if you notice hazardous materials lying around or illegal dumping.

Lastly, to the reader, don’t feel guilty if you have thrown away something carelessly. We all make mistakes but we can all learn from our mistakes. I believe none of us mean to do harm but it is knowing the impact that we have, and acknowledging it’s not just one person but a collective.


Improving Sidney’s Recycling

In an effort to be completely transparent with how we are working to improve recycling, here is a quick summary as well as the full text of the grant.

Full Text

TLDR; This NDEE funded grant will create a new, part-time position within the Solid Waste Management Department solely for handling recyclable materials. This position is being created because current staffing limitations prohibit an efficient recycling system. Once this position is hired, trained, and working on the backlog of recyclables, the City will be able to start accepting #1-#7 plastics. (We’re hoping by the end of the first quarter). This will free up other employees and drivers, allowing us to look towards additional collection locations. While this happens, the Solid Waste Department will work with state-wide MRFS and recycling plants to increase revenue and total amount of material moved. In addition we will begin the Hefty Energy Bag Program with approximately 200 households to assess the feasibility of that program.

Full Grant Text:
This project will build on the City of Sidney’s current recycling program by utilizing local resources and grants to increase the amount of recycled material collected and moved out of the city, offer more options to city and county residents, and dramatically decrease the amount of these materials going into the landfill. This will be accomplished by better utilizing local Keep America Beautiful affiliates and working with Firstar Fibers and Western Resources Group.  

Currently, the city is collecting 1&2 plastics, mixed paper, corrugated cardboard, aluminum and tin. These items are all being sent to a single stream system, primarily due to lack of personnel. The single stream system, while less cost effective, is the city’s only reasonable option at this point in time, despite better available options. With the addition of a dedicated materials handler, the City of Sidney will be able to more shrewdly move materials, increase the plastics collection to include all plastics 1 – 7, recover greater costs, and utilize the Hefty Energy Bag program for unrecyclable plastics that end up in our landfill. As the city has dedicated collection bins for each type of material, the Materials Handler would be primarily responsible for separating improperly mixed items, baling materials, and stacking/sorting bales for shipping. 
The City of Sidney will work with Keep Sidney Beautiful to distribute and provide education on the Hefty Energy Bag Program.  The initial pilot program will break up rolls and give smaller packets of bags to participants to increase participation in the communities. The program will operate as a self-service drop off, much like our recycling, until participation and funds from bag sales allows the city to add an additional route.

During the first quarter, a new employee will be hired, trained and begin operating at the Recycling Center sorting and baling recyclables.  The recycling will be expanded to include all types of plastics, and the city will have already started agreements with the necessary parties to move all plastics to Firstar Fibers in Omaha via Western Resources Group in Ogallala, and aluminum and tin to local KAB affiliate Spud Rowley in Kimball. The City of Sidney will work with Keep Sidney Beautiful during this quarter to boost the new recycling options and hefty energy bag program, as well as educational materials to re-learn the recycling process in our town. This quarter will largely focus on increasing the amount of recyclables being collected, and the Hefty Energy Bag Pilot Program to get as many households signed up as possible. The city will track and compare recycling collections to the previous year in order to get a baseline on the overall % increase in materials collected, as well as revenue.

In the second quarter the Hefty Energy Bag Pilot Program should move into the city purchased supply of bags.  Both the city manager and director of Keep Sidney Beautiful agree this will be a tough sell to our community, so the two entities will work together to educate citizens on the value of the program. The city has agreed to continue funding the inventory as long as community engagement is high. During this quarter the recycling program should have ironed out any issues from the increase in materials collected.  The city will continue to monitor costs and revenue from the improved recycling options and by the end of the second quarter should have a solid baseline for the overall success of the program.

In the third quarter the programs will continue to operate as they should with any necessary adjustments made to ensure optimal efficiency. The project managers, Keep Sidney Beautiful and Landfill Supervisor, will compile data and conduct community interviews to present to the city during the yearly budget meeting in order to increase city funding and support that will allow the program to grow. The project managers will also be assessing grant needs for potential expansion of the project, or whether to continue as is. 

The whole of Cheyenne County has been desperate for more recycling options for years.  By simply adding an employee to the ranks, the city will be able to expand options that benefit the county as a whole.  While some outlying villages (Lodgepole, Potter) are able to utilize some recycling opportunities outside the county, they as well as the villages of Gurley and Dalton largely rely on services in Sidney. Boosting the recycling center in Sidney has been core to expanding options around the county. If this project is as successful as it should be, the increased efficiency, and ability to handle greater quantities, will allow the City to place collection bins in other areas in the future.


  • When can I start dropping off all my plastics?
    • We do not have an exact date. This will all depend on the hiring process. Hopefully by the end of the first quarter.
  • How do I apply for the Materials Handler position?
    • This job will be hired and managed through the City of Sidney. Job posting is expected to go up any day as we fine tune the job description, so keep an watch on their Facebook and website.
  • What does ‘grant funded position’ mean?
    • This position is being funded through grant reimbursements from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. This means, that the majority of payroll costs acquired by the city for this specific position will be paid back through this grant fund as long as the program is operating according to plan.
  • So does that mean this job is gone if we don’t get a grant next year?
    • Not necessarily! The purpose of this grant is to elevate our recycling program so that it can afford it’s own employee. Keep Sidney Beautiful will keep applying for grants to support this program as long as it is needed. It is important to note, that while a wonderful benefit, grants cannot always be 100% relied upon.
  • How can I be a part of the Hefty Energy Bag program
    • This program will roll out soon. The priority now is getting an employee hired, as both the recycling changes and HEB rely on having that employee in place! If you are interested now, send and email to and we will put you on a ‘pre-waiting’ list.
  • My question isn’t on this FAQ.
    • That’s because I made all these up. Send your questions to and they will be added!

Our First Clean Up of the Year! Again!

Hey Folks! The snow really hampered our last attempt at a clean up. Though it melted quickly, it left the ground soggy and the litter wet and unmanageable. So we’re going to try it again, on May Day (Saturday May 1st) starting at 8am.

We have a large roll-off donated by Sparky England and some extra gloves, rakes, and cleaning supplies donated by our friends at Bomgaar’s. Please sign up using the form below so we can get an accurate head count for waters, vests, grabbers, etc! During sign up, you can also fill out the Volunteer Waiver, which is required of all participants. (We’ll have paper waivers available on location.)

Sign Up Here