The day before yesterday I walked around my yard and the vacant property next door picking up litter. I found about a bushel of the stuff. It consisted of beer cans, Mountain Dew cans, plastic Coke bottles, Burger King and McDonald’s packaging, plastic drink cups, cup tops and soda straws, wadded up Kleenex, scratch-off lottery ticket stubs, empty cigarette packages, single use WalMart bags caught in the shrubbery, along with small bits of chewing gum and candy wrappers. Oh yes, I also scored 73-cents in change inside a Taco Bell bag.
All that junk was not the accumulation from over the winter. It was the aftermath of a strong north wind. There are a few reasons that litter piles up near my little house. The main cause is that I live on a quiet street only a few blocks away from the main drag. After people finish consuming their fast-food meals and drinking their beverages, they use this neighborhood to dispose of their garbage, instead of keeping it until they reach home.
If that’s not awful enough, sometimes people drive here to throw out their household garbage onto the vacant lot. I’m guessing they cannot afford to pay for garbage hauling services. Regardless of the reasons, I still think they’re slobs.
The other main reason I find so much litter, is that the combination of street design and tree growth come together to form a funnel effect. Whenever the wind is from the north, stuff from the main drag and the convenience store’s parking lot blow into the “funnel” then stops close to my home. Because of the trees, any south wind is blocked from blowing the garbage back north.
One other big problem of this litter is evident when I look at the river bank behind my house. The same variety of trash is found there, too. I only venture down there one time each year because the slope is very steep and tall vegetation grows quickly each spring. I’m sure plenty of garbage also gets blown into the river.
I don’t mention the trash problem as only a rant. I see this funnel effect as a microcosm of the Earth’s garbage problem. Not only do I have to take time to pick up garbage and pay to have it taken away, but many people, everywhere, must do the same.
The bigger problem is that much of the litter and garbage in America is not picked up. It remains on the roadways to get crushed and broken up, then blown onto the land and into creeks and rivers. The accumulations flow with rain along the waterways, ultimately into the oceans.
I’m probably “preaching to the choir” when I mention that we all need to take ownership of everything that we purchase and generate. When we buy nifty electronic gadgets, we also buy the clear plastic packaging they’re in. The Starbucks coffee cups are ours, even after the drinks are gone. The pretty blue Bud Lite cans still belong to us after the last gulps. Those shopping bags that are caught in trees, flapping in the breeze, belong to consumers bringing home their purchases.
Sometimes I think that Americans are like little kids who scatter their belongings everywhere for parents to put away properly.
There are absolutely no legitimate reasons for us to put up with a cluttered up, littered America. If Americans decide to take responsible, adult ownership of belongings and refuse, the situation will drastically improve. If not even one candy wrapper, a single cigarette butt, or one wadded up tissue gets out of our control, we’ll have a more beautiful America and world.
I like the fact that the garbage hauler I hire also provides a complimentary paper recycling service. People who do not have such an advantage can also recycle independently. My friend Jorge composts almost every plant-derived product from his household. The weekly want-ad flyers, cardboard, and other paper goes into the compost bin along with the cauliflower stems and garden trimmings.
These thoughts come to mind during Keep America Beautiful Month. The event has been promoted for many years by the “Keep America Beautiful” organization. They are known for the public service announcements on teevee and radio that remind us not to litter. Some of us may remember the years-long campaign of the Weeping Indian spots and billboards featuring Iron Eyes Cody.
Today, you might remember Keep America Beautiful because of their promotion of curbside recycling programs, or the collegiate event, “RecycleMania”. Some of us know about “America Recycles Day”, also sponsored by the organization.
Happy Keep America Beautiful Month.