By Julie Tomascik

Let’s talk trash, Texas.

Plastic cups. Napkins. Fast food packaging. Even full trash bags. That litter is trashing up our beautiful state.

About 435 million pieces of visible litter can be found on Texas roadways, according to the Don’t Mess With Texas campaign.

That’s a lot, and that’s only the trash we can see. Wind and rain will push that trash and the litter hidden from eyesight, uninvited, down the road.

But that’s not the only problem with litter.

That trash ends up in fields and pastures. Each piece puts livestock and wildlife at risk.

Cattle shouldn’t have to graze next to a plastic grocery bag. Sheep and goats roaming the Texas plains aren’t supposed to do so alongside candy wrappers. And an empty fast food sack doesn’t complement horses galloping through a field.

Put simply, rural routes aren’t a dumping ground for trash. It may be the road less traveled, but it doesn’t make it any less important.

But it’s not just trash that causes an issue. Let’s talk balloons.

They’re great at birthdays, weddings and graduations. When they get loose, and we all know they will, they pose a threat to livestock, wildlife and contaminate our environment.

Now, that’s a party foul.

Balloon releases, although usually held with good intentions, are a bad idea.

Some schools have students write a message and tie it to a balloon. They want whomever finds that balloon to write them back.

Again, I think they mean well. But the unfortunate reality is those balloons end up causing more damage. There have to be more responsible ways to find a pen pal.

Wildlife and livestock are curious. Balloon strings, balloons, a stray piece of paper or a Styrofoam cup may look innocent, but it could be part of their next meal—with deadly consequences.

Farmers and ranchers can’t be everywhere all the time when their office covers acres instead of feet. Some things go unseen. Some trash remains in the field.

So let’s each do our part and keep trash from littering our roads, farms and ranches.

Let’s honor our Texas pride. Keep our roadways clean. And our state beautiful.