Thursday, January 20, 2011

Litterbugs, Part Two

Earlier this month I wrote in this blog about littering and my growing intolerance with it ("Litterbugs," January 1, 2011).

The sad truth, as if we didn't know, is that I (or you) could pick up litter all day every day for a year, and there'd be no appreciable dent in the problem. Supposedly, 48% of all Americans will admit to having littered at one time or another. Stir in those who don't admit it, and the rate is probably more like 99 or 100%.

I've littered. I don't anymore. I'll still toss down a banana peel or some other biodegradable item, but I don't consider that littering. Maybe it's a double standard. I'm concerned with the stuff that doesn't decompose.
In my town, there's plenty of litter. I still pick it up, in spite of the futility.

I did a little Googling on the subject. My keywords were "roadside litter statistics." I found a site called Green Info Services, which says the following are the biggest 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.
None of this is at all surprising.

So I'm still picking up litter. On my walk today I took a bag along for the first time in over a week (see above photo). We had a good-sized snow storm recently and it covered everything.

But I still took my walks. I was out the other day after a cold snap broke and the Great Snowmelt had begun. Came across an empty Bicardi bottle just off the sidewalk near a bank, on a patch of newly-exposed grass. I had not brought a bag with me so I picked the bottle up and put it in my jacket pocket. A couple inches of its neck jutted out. I must have looked like  the town drunk.

When I went out today I forgot to bring a bag. But a nearby grocery store has a bag recycling program, so I stopped by and plucked one from their canister.

It didn't take long to fill. Mostly I picked up the usual crap: recyclable bottles and cans, empty potato chip bags, empty cigarette boxes, and so on. But I came across a scrap of a to-do list (I'll tell 'em what they can do!) and, curiously, a little Zen garden.
Zen and the Art of Littering

Of course, this isn't really a Zen garden. It's just some rocks piled up, probably by teenagers as they passed around a joint. Before I took this photograph I picked up a bunch of litter here. There was more than I could possibly stuff into my little bag, but I found a cardboard box and filled it with a bunch of crap. Left it by this rock pile as a sort of wastebasket. Think they'll get the hint?

I shall continue to pick up crap from the side of the road. Maybe I can start a new blog that deals only with trash. I'll call it, say, "One Man's Treasure," or maybe "Another Roadside Attraction" (with apologies to Tom Robbins). I can be like that woman, Julie somebody, who cooked her way through the Julia Childs cookbook. My rubric shall be "trash." Document all the crap I've picked up.

That reminds me: I pick up empty cigarette boxes, but I do not pick up cigarette butts. The reason should be obvious. By one estimate there are 4.5 trillion butts improperly disposed of each year.

How ever did they arrive at that figure?

Statistics cited in this post come from the Keep America Beautiful website.

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