How Little Littering Causes Titanic Flooding. [The Dark Side of Compounding]9 min read

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Have you ever wondered what happens to the garbage thrown on the streets?

Imagine that you bought a sachet of water from a provision shop. After drinking from the sachet, you discard it on the streets. Let’s call this discarded water sachet Kelvin. (No offense, Kelvin.) 

Kelvin lies on the road depressed from rejection. The forceful wind from moving vehicles lands him in the gutter. There Kelvin meets Cynthia; a black nylon bag and Lucas a plastic water bottle. As moments pass, they are joined by more friends like biscuit sachets, candy wraps, and cigarette packs. 

Kelvin and his new friends then clog the street’s drainage. Soon water level starts rising, leading to flooding.

We can cause huge problems by making a series of small wrong decisions. This is the dark side of compounding.

What Is Flooding?

Have you ever seen a clogged sink? This is usually because a lot of debris alated and blocked the drain. This is an archetype of a flood.

Flooding is the overflow of water on land that is usually dry.

Climate change and increased rainfall frequency cause flooding, amongst other natural factors. But flooding can also be anthropogenic (i.e. human-induced), and one way humans do this is through littering.

Littering is an indiscriminate disposal of waste materials. And, sometimes these trash assembles in drainages and blocks water flow. When this happens, the outcome is flooding.

“We are living on this planet as if we have another one to go to.”

~ Terri Swearingen

In Nigeria, people throw water cans or nylon bags from the window of a moving vehicle. But the consequences are far from comfortable. So also, day by day, people do things (in their family, workplace, or personal life) that compound negatively to hunt them.

Note: This is not to say littering is the cause of the current flooding in Nigeria.

The Negative Effects of Flooding That Makes It Disastrous

Flooding is detrimental to our existence as humans and to plants and other animals. It has not failed to leave mouth-gaping events in world history. Some examples are;

  • The 2007 floods of Africa 
  • The Mississippi River flood in the United States, and 
  • The “Great Drowning of Men” of the Netherlands.

“Be part of the solution, not the pollution. can admit that littering is an overlooked bad habit. But we can change for the greater good.”

– Unknown

There are various disastrous outcomes of flooding. The major one is death. This is not only due to drowning but also the post-flood effect of famine, diseases (example, malaria and typhoid) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can also result in other problems which include;

  • The destruction of human and other animal dwellings. Occupants of flooded areas become displaced. The floodwater forces them to leave elsewhere which is inconvenient, to say the least.
  • Destroyed crops  is a usual sight during flooding. It is most detrimental when the wreckage is that of large-scale commercial crops (like a cassava plantation).
  • Commercial establishments are also casualties of flooding. For instance, those who do fish-pond business lose their fish. The rising water levels gives the fishes room to escape.
  • Infirmaries are not spared when a flood occurs. Safety becomes the major concern of the staff and patients alike. As if ailment was not enough of a problem to worry about.
  • Flooding forces schools situated in affected areas to shut down. Halting the education of students and the livelihood of staffs.
  • Flooding demolishes transport systems such as roads, bridges, and railways. Floodwater is that powerful. It can also displace most hefty objects such as taxicabs depending on the water levels.
  • Amongst other issues

Without a doubt, flood is a strong force of nature. It will be unwise to not take the necessary precautions needed to impede its occurrence. Little things like avoiding littering can go a long way.

Interestingly, most people don’t also see how “little things” like lying, cheating, and negligence lead to failed relationships; or how their lack of exercise, smoking, and, eating junk negatively compounds to cause health issues.

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4 Reasons You Should Stop Littering Before It Harms You

When we litter, we ignore the ecological importance of plants and animals as we harm them. Oblivious to us, we do so at our own risk.

“In the forests and mountains, animals do not leave trash. Humans Do. Please behave like animals.”

– Unknown

You should stop littering because of its inimical effects which include;

  1. Flooding; Litter can accumulate in drainages (and massive indiscriminate refuse dumps). It then clogs water from flowing out thereby leading to a flood. 
  2. Defacing of the environment; An area with litter becomes unattractive. It can affect the self-image of the people who live in the vicinity (as they might start seeing themselves as unhygienic) and repels other people. The ugly environment alsoencourage other people to litter which leads to a vicious cycle of environmental degradation. 
  3. Water pollution; Litter found in water, like rivers or wells, can make it unsafe to drink. It makes water harmful to bathe or cook due to the presence of pathogens. It also creates a harmful environment for aquatic life. Not to mention  the smell!
  4. Infection and Disease: Flooding can create a habitat for vectors such as mosquitoes. This leads to the spread of disease when they attack people. Floodwater transports waste materials like faeces or dead organisms disseminating pathogens. This is a major factor of infection in individuals exposed to such conditions.

10 Ways You Can Stop Littering

We can stop flooding by implementing some waste management principles and measures:

“There is no such thing as garbage, just useful stuff in the wrong place.”

~ Alex Steffen
  1. Reduce; Only buy things that you need so you can lessen the likelihood of culling them. If you’re not going to use an item often, rent it rather than buy it. Less is more.
  2. Reuse; You can reuse items like water cans to store more water or other liquids. (Eg. a mix of whey protein for fitness goals in a pet bottle.)
  3. Recycle; Not every waste material is useless. You can give your trash like pet bottles to recycling companies. They can reproduce garbage to other useful products like nylon bags.
  4. Properly dispose trash; Discard waste in a waste bin. If there is none, carry it with you until you find a bin or designated dump to dispose of it. Consider it your civic responsibility to clear drainage blocked by trash. Also, inform the appropriate authorities to take action on indiscriminate dumping. Ensure your family and friends do the same through exemplary action.
  5. Educate others; Share the information in this article with others. Also, you can start an environmental education campaign. Go to schools, hospitals, churches, or events and sensitize people on the dangers of littering and encourage them to stop.
  6. Make signposts; You can get a “Don’t Litter” signpost to deter people from littering.
  7. Provide waste bins; You can buy waste bins and place them where people can use them rather than litter. If you own a business, you can place them in front of your store and encourage other businesses to do so.
  8. Donate; Some people may need that material you want to discard. For example, in Nigeria, people who sell palm oil are usually in need of empty pet bottles. They use them to store and sell their products.
  9. Beautify your environment; People tend to litter a place that is already dirty. The reverse is the case in an aesthetic environment. You can beautify your surroundings by planting flowers. 
  10. Use green products and services as they have a less negative impact on the environment.

It is customary for the likes of Kelvin and Cynthia to have a proper funeral by recycling. (This is their way of reproducing other useful materials like brand-new plastic bottles, nylon bags, carpets, and many more.)

“Waste isn’t waste until we waste it.”


Several things cause flooding but littering is the most neglected. So yes, by littering you may be the cause of the flooding that has killed and displaced a multitude of people.

Conclusion: Negative Compounding

Most people may say, “But how can a little plastic I discarded be a contributor to the huge flood in Nigeria?

The answer is negative compounding: Studies show that several litters accumulate over time. Which then form mounds of water barricades in drains.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

People tend to blame the government for trash-induced environmental problems such as flooding. But they neglect their contribution to it. Just as they blame their parents or society for their problems without acknowledging how their little lies, selfish acts, cowardice, and so on lead to an unfulfilling or regrettable life.

One little lie or dishonest act leads to another until the perpetrator is caught in the web of deceit.

– Marvin J. Ashton

Keeping our environment clean (as well as having a pleasant life) is a collective effort. You must take responsibility (sometimes, even when it’s not your litter).

Litter isn’t little. Lies aren’t white.

Say no to wrong, no matter how small.

I enjoy literary works (especially in the form of books and songs) and learning about human psychology.

I’m also interested in intellectual development, fitness/athleticism, and waste management.

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