Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My rant about littering

I live on a beautiful country road that terminates at a conservation area.  The dog and I walk for about a kilometer each day, before we turn back.  For some time, it has been my habit to pick up all of the accumulated roadside litter about every six months or so.  Here's a pictorial record of what I've brought home over the last few such collections.  It's not very pretty:

Once I get this stuff home, I put on my old work gloves and sort the stuff into returnables (beer and liquor bottles), recyclables, burnables (which end up in the woodstove) and just plain garbage. Most of this stuff falls into the first three categories.

There are several terrible ironies that emerge.  The first is that we live in the most highly educated, affluent society in our history, yet we continue to have people who behave like this.  The second is the nature of the recyclables, which often include water bottles.  So, someone is apparently so concerned about the purity of water that he/she drinks that they opt for bottled water (which is a crock, anyway), but then they toss the empty bottle into the very environment that their ongoing health depends upon.  One bottle I picked up even was an "Ethos" brand from Starbucks, which promises to use sales money to help provide clean drinking water around the world. Tossing that bottle onto the roadside certainly cancelled out that contribution.

There is also a new class of litter that I've decided to call, for lack of a better word, "recyclitter."  For the last several years, our township has offered roadside recycling pickup.  Problem is, people fill their bins with light plastic material and put it out on windy days, apparently completely ignorant of the effect of moving air on such stuff.  So, it gets spread into the ditches, where the recycling truck crews certainly don't have time to collect it.  Neither, apparently, do the homeowners, who just haul their empty bin home and abandon their unintentional litter to the roadside.

Much of this stuff never breaks down.  Just google "great pacific garbage patch" to see what has happened to our largest ocean. Luckily for us landlubbers, there are no currents to collect all of the roadside litter and float it away to collect in some place like Toronto.  So, if someone like me doesn't pick it up, it'll stay there for a long, long time, with more piling on top of it.

This whole thing speaks to the bigger picture of car culture, behaviour in public spaces and a decline in the sense of personal responsibility.  Time was, there was a tacit understanding that you didn't foul your own nest.  Canadians, rightly or wrongly, used to feel that they were better at this than Americans.  It's certainly not true anymore, at least from what I see when I travel not only my own road, but all of the roads in the area.  There is garbage everywhere. 

I tried, for a short while, to pick the stuff up every day, but it was simply too discouraging.  I don't think there are a lot of people doing this, but there are enough, and maybe it's the same people every day.  There seems to be no cure for these people who are unable to either appreciate the natural beauty that they pass through on the way to the shopping mall, or who spare not a care that their actions besmirch the natural world in a way that is highly offensive to other people like me.

Anyway, thankfully now the snow has come to cover this scourge until the spring, and the cold weather causes the offenders to keep their litter in their cars because they don't want to open their windows and get cold.  No, they won't litter if there's any personal cost.

Well, I'm going to try to keep up my efforts to undo what the litterers keep doing, but I can't promise to remain un-discouraged. As for the litterers, I like to think that everything comes around that goes around.  If nothing else, maybe they'll discover that there's a special place in hell reserved for them, with coffee breaks eliminated to limit the litter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear !!. and those that live on the leeward side, have fuller recycle bins the next week .