It was time to take a breather from household chores, so I paused to look out the window towards the river. That’s when I saw the plastic bag caught on a tree branch, flapping in the breeze. It’s annoying to see litter in the landscape, but for litter to flaunt itself every time I want to look out the window is enough to trigger OCD.
I went outdoors to survey the situation. The bag was trapped on a small tree in the riverbank. It was well out of reach, even with a rake or grabbing tool. The only option was to climb down onto the steep slope and risk injury by falling. Also, the soil is mushy due to our wetter than usual spring weather. I couldn’t allow the bag to stay; otherwise it would eventually break free and end up in the river.
After considering the options, another idea came to mind. Tie my rake onto a rope then try to snag the bag and pull it out. It took several tries, but eventually the rake caught onto the bag and I was able to remove the offending litter.
Living adjacent to the river and the many trees that grow on its banks is generally pleasant. Unfortunately, the trees and brush are traps for plastic and paper bags, construction waste, fast food trash, and miscellaneous light garbage that takes flight in the wind.
Yesterday, while going about the daily chore of removing litter from the city-owned property next to my house, I discovered dozens of tiny, empty “Southern Comfort” whiskey bottles scattered throughout the city property and my front yard. I hope I was able to find all of them, otherwise the mower will suck them up and create more problems.
I’m guessing that the tiny whiskey bottles were probably tossed out by underage drinkers to dispose of the evidence of their crimes. The act of littering only adds to the list of their illegal misdeeds. Certainly, their misbehavior harms the environment and causes annoying inconvenience to me.
Then there is the bigger problem of people who drop their food and drink wrappers and cups out of their cars onto the streets and roads. Why can’t they properly dispose of the stuff when they reach their destinations? It seems that such people are lazy, couldn’t care less about other people, feel contempt for the environment, or couldn’t care less about the wildlife that must contend with garbage. Their lack of concern is disturbing.
If I was a lawmaker, I’d be all for increasing the penalties for littering. First of all, the higher fines and possible jail for serious infractions may act as a deterrent. Second of all, the higher fines would help defray some costs of environmental clean up.
As I tried removing the plastic bag from the tree, I wondered about the costs to society beyond my little corner of the nation. There is the money spent by state highway department on removal of trash plus equipment repairs made necessary by damage to mowing equipment. There are disposal and recycling fees, lost tourist revenue, lost business income, real estate is devalued, wildlife is greatly harmed.
Monetary costs include spending by state and federal forestry departments, city and county sanitation departments, independent business costs, farming and ranching interests, along with volunteer program administration expenses.
Keep America Beautiful Cites seven primary sources of litter:
1. Trucks with uncovered or unsecured loads on local roads and highways.
2. Pedestrians or cyclists who do not use the receptacles.
3. Motorists who do not use car ashtrays or litterbags.
4. Business dumpsters that are improperly covered.
5. Loading docks and commercial or recreational marinas with inadequate waste receptacles.
6. Construction and demolition sites without tarps and receptacles to contain debris and waste.
7. Household trash scattered before or during collection.
As a nation, we are capable of being more responsible and accountable than we now are. April is Keep America Beautiful Month. This is a great time to help preserve our nation’s environmental heritage.