Paul Katzer, head of parks and recreation for McPherson, described McPherson’s litter situation as “terrible.”

Paul Katzer, head of parks and recreation for McPherson, described McPherson’s litter situation as “terrible.”
“It takes two kids two to four hours to pick up trash and empty the garbage cans,” Katzer said. “The cans are fine, but litter isn’t.”
Katzer said litter in McPherson tends to be worse during warmer months, when people spend more time outside and in parks. Though McPherson parks have garbage cans readily available, Katzer said some choose not to use them.
“We have people throw cigarette butts and garbage out of their cars when there’s a trash can right there,” Katzer said.
Katzer said the problem isn’t just cigarettes and paper waste. He said people don’t clean up after their dogs, and some people leave fish guts in garbage cans after gutting them.
“The smell is just awful,” Katzer said. “I’ve thought about not picking up for a week so people can see how bad it is, but that just makes it worse when we clean.”
Brad Simpson, chief of public lands for Kansas Parks and Wildlife, said the problems with litter go beyond cosmetic, though appearance is the most obvious problem. State and city governments have to spend more time picking it up, and it can hurt the environment as well.
“Any toxic chemicals — house cleaners and so on — could be dangerous to birds and mammals, and trash can create a trap,” Simpson said. “Animals can also get stuck in plastic rings, which keeps them from flying or moving.”
There are several lakes and other bodies of water in McPherson, and runoff can cause problems for aquatic life.
“It could affect fish and amphibians too,” Simpson said. “It depends on what the trash is and where it’s at.”
Katzer said wind makes it harder to collect trash and can sometimes cause garbage build-ups in fences. He said this buildup, especially in park shelters, deters people from using public spaces.
“You’ll see people leave their trash in shelters, even though they all have garbage cans,” Katzer said. “People don’t want to use a dirty space.”
Simpson said food trash can be especially dangerous because it attracts animals. This makes it more likely animals get trapped and can also foster the spread of disease.
“Most things people relate to are rats, but you could get any type of birds or mammals,” Simpson said. “It could spread disease.”
Katzer said people need to be more aware of the impact trash has on the community and use trash cans.
“We don’t mind emptying trash cans, but picking it up is a problem,” Katzer said. “You just see it all the time.”