Big Trouble in Little Lacamas Lake Park (by Amelia Ebaugh)



During my time volunteering, cleaning litter at Lacamas Lake Park, I noticed a lingering trend. People are still mindlessly littering garbage in our forests without considering the larger impact littering has on the environment. I’ve spent many afternoons at Lacamas Lake Park, it is one of my favorite places to go for a walk. I often notice a lot of trash shoved in the bushes around the picnic table areas. The problem is that there are no trash cans around the tables and no warning signs to defer people from littering. Countless occasions forests, oceans, and wildlife have felt the negative impacts of human created garbage. In order to achieve a cleaner forest,  I propose a two-step solution. There needs to be an increase of at least five trash cans and seven warning signs to Lacamas Lake Park’s picnic area to help eliminate litter.

During my time cleaning litter here I filled an entire trash bag within two hours. The things I picked up were disgusting and in no way biodegradable. As I dredged through the bushes, I picked up numerous beer cans and bottles, a dirty diaper,  and half-a-bag’s-worth of trash shoved in a picnic grill. It made me sad to see such ugly things taking up space in this beautiful place. Littering hurts everyone: the forest, the people that enjoy the parks, and especially the animals that live there. 

One of the most harmful and most common forms of litter are plastics. Plastics have been reeking havoc on the environment ever since regular production began in 1907 (Chem Heritage). Human-created waste, such as plastics, is the direct reason Earth has billions-of-tons of it in landfills, forests, oceans, etc. In 2012 alone, “280 million tons of plastic was produced globally. Less than half of it was consigned to landfills or recycled…the remaining 150 million tons litters continents and oceans” (Rochman et. al). Thousands of animal species are negatively affected by this. Plastic is extremely harmful if ingested and the chemicals absorbed by oceans and forest floors pollute water and groundwater in these habitats. “According to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, the chemical ingredients of more than 50% of plastics are hazardous” (Rochman et. al). “Polyvinyl-chloride (PVC), polystyrene, polyurethane, and poly-carbonate can be carcinogenic and can effect organisms in a similar way to the hormone estrogen” (Rochman et. al). Not only is ingesting plastic harmful to animals, but they can also become entangled in plastic, unable to free themselves. Here are a couple examples of how plastic affects animals.



This information about the negative impact of littering and plastic waste should be nothing new. For years, environmentalists have been educating people on the importance of a cleaner Earth, free from plastics and other harmful non-biodegradable garbage. This problem is not just going to disappear and it is up to us humans to think of other solutions. People across America have been coming up with new and creative ways to keep the streets clean from litter.  In Boston, for example, new ash trays for cigarettes have been motivating smokers to keep their butts off the streets. These new receptacles are set up like “mini polling stations so smokers can vote based on which slot they use to dispose their stubs” (Waxman). The polling stations ask fun questions like, “Which superpower would you want? … and has two openings, one for “Flight” and one for “Invisibility” (Waxman). This is just one creative solution to keep people from littering.

Another method to reduce the amount of trash on forest floors and beaches would be to add signs around the area informing people that there is a large fine for littering and that the area is under surveillance. When people believe they are being watched, they act differently than when they are alone. In a study by Melissa Bateson et al., they put the theory of people acting more “pro-socially” when in the presence of “watching eyes” to the test (Bateson et al.). This theory directly relates to the issue of littering. The study proved that when people were knowingly being watched they did not litter (Bateson et al.). On the contrary, those who were unknowingly being watched and with litter already on the ground, these people continued to litter with no regard (Bateson et al.). People are more willing to comply with the law when there are warning signs stating that they are being watched and will be fined if they litter. This could mean that with the addition of warning signs, accompanied by enough trash cans, people will have more of an incentive to not litter.

Coming back to the problem at hand, which is the lack of adequate trash receptacles at Lacamas Lake Park. I propose the addition of at lease five new trash cans and seven anti-littering warning signs around the picnic tables to help reduce the amount of litter thrown into the bushes. The park already has a trash service and a few large receptacles at the front entrance. Of course, people who use the park for picnics do not use these cans and litter their trash near the tables. I would like to place the new trash cans around the tables so that people can dispose of their trash near the table.

You may be wondering how I plan in making this a reality and where the money for this project will be coming from. Since Lacamas Lake is a public park, the decision to add these cans and signs would ultimately be up to the City of Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation department. According to Waste Connections of Vancouver WA, Parks and Recreation would not need to pay a trash collection fee for each additional can, but can pay a monthly fee for a larger container emptied weekly. Currently, the park already has a couple large receptacles in the front entrance, but they should consider upgrading the size of the container to accommodate the additional trash collected from the new cans.

I have put together an estimate by researching the average cost of the trash service in the area and the cost of each new can plus bags. For a 2-yd container (which is 4′ tall, 3′ long, and 6′ wide) costs $177 per month for weekly pick up. This container is large enough to accommodate all the trash collected in this area. Each new trash can costs anywhere from $80-$100 for a 32-gallon plastic can ( The initial cost in adding five new cans is $400-$500, plus the cost of biodegradable trash bags. I’ve chosen biodegradable bags to fit the eco-friendly theme of my proposal. These biodegradable bags will cost about $1 each (Green Paper Products, LLC). The cans will be emptied and maintained by volunteers twice a week. Trash collected from these cans will go to the larger receptacle at the front entrance, that is serviced once a week. The initial total cost is $617-$717 for the first month and $217 for the ongoing monthly cost, which includes trash service and bags. This monthly cost can be reduced if non-biodegradable bags are used. For a carton of 500 regular plastic trash bags costs $33, that brings the cost for each bag to less than 7 cents (Clean It Supply). This takes care of step one and leaves room for the option of biodegradable or non-biodegradable bags.

Moving on to step two, the addition of warning signs that include “watching eyes” and statement of a large fine to be ticketed to those that continue to litter. In most cases the fine for littering is anywhere from $300-$1000 (NCSL). For these warning signs, I suggest an addition of at least seven (one by each new trash can, one in the front entrance, and one up the trail). Each sign costs about $20 for a standard “engineer grade” metal sign that will last over 10 years ( The total cost would be about $140 for seven signs. The money for this initiative will come from taxes from the City of Vancouver and will have to put up for a vote. If everyone pitches in just cents on the dollar, Lacamas Lake Park, and potentially a few other parks will have less litter and become more enjoyable to the public.

It was shocking to discover so much litter at my favorite park in Vancouver. I cannot sit idly by and do nothing about the increasing amount of litter at Lacamas Lake Park. In order to eliminate littering here, there needs to be an increase of trash cans around the picnic tables and warning signs to defer people from littering. If nothing is done and plastics continue to litter the forest floor, the wildlife here will surely be affected. I would hate to find animals tangled in plastic, like the photos above, knowing that it could have be avoided if people weren’t so lazy. We need to bring more attention to the issue at hand in order to convince the city that there is a problem. Please help me make my proposal a reality by calling the City of Vancouver’s Parks and Rec maintenance department at (360) 487-8177 or by email at If enough people contact Parks and Rec this proposal will gain the momentum it needs in order to make this solution a reality. Together we can make a difference.

Thank you.

Works Cited

Bateson, Melissa, et al. “Do Images of ‘Watching Eyes’ Induce Behavior That Is More Pro-Social or More Normative? A Field Experiment on Littering.”Plos ONE, vol. 8, no. 12, Dec. 2013, p. 1. EBSCOhost. 

Clean It Supply. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2017. < trash-bags.aspx>. 

“Contact Us.”City of Vancouver Washington. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 June 2017. <;. 

Duck in plastic rings. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2017

“Green Paper Products, LLC.”Green Products. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. <;. 

Little Planet. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. < music/6>.

Rochman, Chelsea M., et al. “Policy: Classify Plastic Waste as Hazardous.”EBSCOhost. Nature, vol. 494, no. 7436, 14 Feb. 2013, pp. 169-171.

“States With Littering Penalties.”NCSL. N.p., Mar. 2014. Web. 7 June 2017. < penalties.aspx>.

“The History and Future of Plastics”. Chemical Heritage Foundation. N.p., 20 Dec. 2016. Web. 05 June 2017. <;.

“Trash Cans Unlimited”. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. < cans/>.

“Turtle in plastic rings”. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2017. <;.

Waste Connections. Washington – Clark County. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. <;.

Waxman, Olivia B. “Boston Wants You to Vote with Your Cigarette Butts”. 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 

Annotated Bibliography

Bateson, Melissa, et al. “Do Images of ‘Watching Eyes’ Induce Behavior That Is More Pro-Social or More Normative? A  Field Experiment on Littering.”Plos ONE, vol. 8, no. 12, Dec. 2013, p. 1. EBSCOhost.

This article discusses that people typically adhere to social-norms when they think they are being watched. The “watchful eyes” symbols make people less likely to litter because they think they are being watched and monitored by the neighborhood. This article brings up a great point to why people litter more frequently in areas without watching eyes. This article brings up great psychological points to why people think it is okay to litter (i.e no one is around, too lazy, other people are doing it). If it is the norm to litter, people do it more freely and in the U.S where littering is not accepted positively, people typically only litter when no one else is around.

“Waste Briefs.”Waste & Recycling News, vol. 17, no. 20. Ebscohost. 06 Feb. 2012.

This news article mentions that in some of Ohio’s state parks they have been removing more trash cans and has implemented a new policy of “carry in, carry out”. This action calls on people to take everything they bring with them when visiting the parks. The park officials are actually seeing less litter around the park. I think this article brings attention to the opposing side to my solution. Instead of adding more cans, costing the state more money, just ask people to not litter. This sounds nice and all, but not realistic. Everywhere I have gone without an adequate amount of trash cans, there is a lot more litter around than not.

When I started this paper I thought this article was going to be very helpful for my counter argument. In actuality I never used the information from this article to strengthen my proposal.

Waxman, Olivia B. “Boston Wants You to Vote with Your Cigarette Butts”. 11 Feb. 2016. Web.

This article is about a new and creative way to get the people of Boston, MA to stop throwing their cigarette butts in the city streets. Boston has installed new trash receptacles for cigarette butts that encourages people to vote with their butts. The receptacles are set up like a polling station, there are two answer choices for one question. People throw their cigarette butt in the receptacle of their answer. For example, one polling station asks the question, “Which Superpower Would You Want?” and the two opening below say “Flight” or “Invisibility”. I think this article will strengthen my argument for more trash cans because this creative idea has proven to help reduce cigarette littering in the streets.



  1. Amelia,
    I am very proud you are doing your absolute best to get rid of littering in your park. I have to say when I looked at those images you put I was sick to my stomach. I mean really people are that ignorant not wanting to throw away their trash!? Personally I did not know that the fine for littering was that high and I think it should be even higher to convince people and punish them harming wild life.

    I love your idea of tricking the people at the park by making them think they are being watched and have multiple signs that say that I love it! I am absolutely with you Amelia, I will inform people at my work to also send in an email to get this project going.

    I am super happy we still have real people that care!

    Thank you for your work


  2. Janie

    Great job! I really enjoyed reading your essay. You did such a nice job incorporating so many facts about the effects of littering. The pictures added a great emotional appeal which helped with your argument. I was not able to pick out anything that you could improve on, honestly, it was a great piece. You have inspired me to keep an eye out and clean up any garbage that I see laying around. Your proposal was very realistic and definitely can be done. I also liked how you ended with providing the number to Vancouver’s park and rec so that we can all make a call and get involved.
    Overall your final proposal was extremely well written and you should be very proud of yourself. I can tell you have done some great work this term!

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