When it comes to prioritizing environmental concerns, curbing litter isn't exactly at the top of the list.
After all, when there are much bigger dangers like harmful emissions, overfishing, and climate change to worry about, how much harm are a few pieces of plastic on the ground really going to do?
But there's one turtle that would staunchly disagree with that mindset (or, at least he would if he could talk).
Meet Peanut. He's a turtle. And he's lucky to be alive.
The red-eared slider was found wandering the St. Louis area in 1993 with a six-pack ring trapped around his mid-section.
Even after his rescuers snipped the plastic rings off, Peanut's shell was forever deformed into a figure-8, peanut-y shape (hence his name). Due to the constriction of his shell, some of Peanut's internal organs (his lungs, in particular) failed to grow properly.
These impairments made Peanut an easy target for predators, which meant he was unable to be released back into the wild.
Today, Peanut has a home and a job with the State of Missouri.
The 31-year old turtle resides at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, where he is treated by the state herpetologist. He's also the official mascot for Missouri's Department of Transportation and Department of Conservation's anti-littering effort, a program called No MOre Trash.
In his heyday, Peanut made as many as two or three appearances a month at schools and events across Missouri.
He and his handlers would encourage people young and old to dispose of their trash the right way to prevent other animals from ending up like Peanut.
Now that Peanut's a little older, he's taking it easy.
"We put Peanut in semi-retirement," Catherine McGrane, assistant nature center manager for Powder Valley, told Upworthy. Traveling back and forth to lots of events can be stressful for a turtle because of all the handling and being transferred to water of varying pH levels.
These days, Peanut still travels to large events like the Missouri State Fair, where he's a popular attraction and educator. Every year, 90,000 to 110,000 visitors travel to Powder Valley to see Peanut and the site's two other resident turtles in the visitor's center lobby.
Peanut is a living, breathing example of the impact our garbage can have on the environment.
Whether it's turtles in six-pack rings or squirrels in yogurt containers, what happens to our trash and how we dispose of it matters.
McGrane shared a few other common household items to watch out for: "Any fishing line, or plastic lines, because animals can get tangled, not just in the water, but by a bird or squirrel, " she said. "And be mindful of balloons when they pop outside. Birds and other animals may ingest them."
The best way to dispose of six-pack rings, fishing line, and yogurt containers is to cut them into smaller pieces before dropping them in the recycling. This simple step can protect fish and wildlife from getting stuck or swallowing large pieces. Balloons and plastic shopping bags also pose a serious threat to animals who eat them or get entangled. Consider balloon-free celebrations and use cloth bags at the store to keep these items out of landfills.
When you're out and about, make sure your trash and recyclables wind up in the right place, in the proper condition.
Because we can all do our part to protect our natural resources and wildlife.