Human behavior turned these 6 animals into garbage lovers. Here's how.

Not every animal can be a majestic stag leaping over a Scottish field while grown men in kilts cry in the background.

Some animals are the opposite. They’re not majestic beasts of the wild glen, they’re just ... kind of trashy. As in, they literally eat trash.


Even though they might be pests (to us), it's partly human behavior that made them that way in the first place.

Animals are eating garbage because humans create so much of it. In 2013, for instance, Americans produced about 254 million tons of waste.

This steady source of free food — and shrinking natural habitats — has drawn the animals out of their innate routines and into our garbage cans and dumpsters, earning them their "nuisance" label.

But which animals are the trashiest?

Here are six animals who, with the help of us humans and all our trash, love to eat garbage.

1. Raccoons are taking over the world.

The masked bandit strikes again. Photo by Elwitsch/Pixabay.

Raccoons have become invasive species in Europe and Japan because people began bringing them into homes as exotic pets.

While domesticating a raccoon for Instagram fame might seem like a cute idea, in reality, these animals aren't meant to cuddle on the couch with us. Even "tame" raccoons are still wild animals. Plus, wild ones can carry diseases like roundworm and rabies.

2. Wild opossums help keep Lyme disease away.

"I call the big one Bitey." — Homer J Simpson. Photo by Jussi You-S-See/Wikimedia Commons.

This is the one animal on this list I’m most likely to freak out — hey, give me a break, they’re super weird-looking and kind of hissy — but in the wild, they can actually be kind of cool. Opossums eat ticks, for example, which helps prevent the spread of Lyme disease. Plus, they carry their babies on their back, which is adorable.

I can’t be mad at them. Just as long as they stay out of my garage.

3. Yellowstone used to be full of trashy bears.

Bear, shouldn't you be out looking for honey or grubs or something? Photo by anoldent/Wikimedia Commons.

Dumpster bears were actually a big problem at Yellowstone. The park used to feature large garbage dumps, which bears would visit for free food. The close contact with people made the bears lose their natural suspicion of humans and people got hurt.

Thankfully, better garbage cans, improved guest behavior, and closing nearby dumps helped solve the problem.

4. Monkeys have learned to commit crimes.

Not a good look, monkey. Photo by Harish/Wikimedia Commons.

On the one hand, who doesn’t like monkeys?

On the other, monkeys can be wicked smart, have little grabby hands, and can run in packs, which spells trouble. In fact, group of macaques in Indonesia has even learned to steal stuff from tourists and hold it for ransom.

5. New York City's spent millions trying to exterminate rats.

Maybe he's just waiting for the M train. Photo by m01229/Wikimedia Commons.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed $32 million to rat extermination, but they’re not likely to disappear anytime soon. Rats are excellent survivors, and estimates on the NYC rat population number in the millions.

Then again, I think rats in general are pretty misunderstood. Sure, they’re kind of icky, but they also laugh when tickled.

6. Even seagulls can get sick from eating trash.

Behold, the bane of a thousand beach vacations. Photo from klafue/Pixabay.

The noise! The screeching! The fact that they always seem to smell kind of like stale poop. If any animal was going to be crowned King Trashy, seagulls would be it.

Of course, eating garbage isn’t good for them. Yes, even seagulls can get sick from eating garbage — especially if they accidentally gobble up stuff like plastic.

The thing is, these animals wouldn’t be so trashy without, you know, our trash.

All of these animals were doing just fine without garbage dumps. They’re simply responding to our expanding cities and the smorgasbord of free (if smelly) food we leave behind.

Not all animals can be majestic, it’s true, but we certainly can do a better job helping them not be trashy, either.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.