There is a lot of litter on our planet, but it hasn’t always been that way.

For most of human history, people made stuff out of things they found in nature. They might make tools out of rocks or sticks. These things break down and become part of the soil again.

It wasn’t until the invention of new materials, like plastic, that we started creating more litter. In fact, along with the rise of these new materials came the word “litterbug.”

Erik Johnson.

That’s what I found out from my friend Erik Johnson. He’s a sociologist at Washington State University who is really curious about culture, the ways people interact and live together, and how that shapes a human being.

If you were eating a candy bar and the wind blew the wrapper out of your hand, you might chase after it and find a trash bin. But not everyone will make the same decision. They might let the wrapper blow away—or just toss it on the ground.

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Dr. Universe