My friend, Linda, and I went to dinner last night. We were celebrating her birthday that had just passed. During the course of our evening we discussed many topics, but always circle back to the issues closest to us.
We talked about trash! We always talk about trash. We talked about litter and how hard we work to keep litter under control, how many hours of our lives we’ve spent picking up the remnants of someone’s lunch, or their partying from the night before. I told her about running a weed whacker on one side of the street, looking up, and at the intersection, where a vehicle has stopped for the stop sign, someone had apparently opened the passenger door and set an empty liquor bottle on the ground. The bottle was upright and looked for all the world like you would set a bottle on the counter at home.
We both agreed how fortunate that the litterbug hadn’t thrown the bottle and left us a pile of broken glass. The absurdity of our conversation was not lost to me. Here we were, having a delicious meal, celebrating a wonderful occasion and talking trash! We always talk trash. We consistently talk trash. We talk trash when we’re working, when we’re on the phone, when we’re at meetings and when we’re with other friends.
The conversations may vary, but eventually the talk turns to the question, “Why do people do that?” That question is closely related to a previous post I wrote, titled, “ What is WRONG with you?” We ponder the question, we muse and we share our frustration. We are saddened and frustrated when we clean up a site, only to return the next day to find litter once again in the same location.
I am truly a positive thinker, but I have to admit, sometimes it all seems so pointless.
I have been picking up litter since I was a kid, but really began concentrating my efforts in 2006. I have two Adopt a Spot locations where I collect trash every week and send the results monthly to Keep Prince William Beautiful. I use a five gallon drywall mud bucket with a handle because it’s much easier than trying to hold a bag open and stuff litter in. When the bucket is full, I empty it into the trash bag. I also pick up litter regularly at the commuter lot and any time I walk across a parking lot, if I see litter in the vicinity, I pick it up. So, I collect about four large contractor bags full of litter a month. That would mean about 150 of those bags. That’s not counting anything like organized clean ups, group efforts or any events hosted by others.
There are countless volunteers on the streets of Prince William County every day, picking up litter. There are stream clean ups, river clean ups, and efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay that began in 1972. Imagine that! Forty years of effort and the bay is still so polluted we have enacted legislation that demands cleaner water by 2025…thirteen years in the future!
In the 2011 PWC budget, we allocated 4.5 million dollars just for salaries for employees involved with solid waste. That’s just salaries. That does not include the cost for vehicles, the landfill operation, hazardous waste disposal, or any of the other myriad expenses involved. Obviously, trash is big business!
All Prince William County taxpayers pay a solid waste fee in their tax bill. If you live in a single family home, you are paying $70.00 a year. Then you pay a trash hauler to cart your waste to the landfill. (Or if you are like some of the people we clean up after their illegal dumping, you might be saving that fee!)
My point is we all need to be responsible. Volunteers can’t keep up with litter. There are always more of “them” than “us." If you see litter, don’t walk past it, pick it up. If you see someone littering, (and it seems safe to do so) ask them to pick it up. Buy products in bulk instead of individual portions. It’s cheaper and better for the environment. Don’t use those plastic bags! Get some reusable bags and carry them in your car.
Make an effort. You’ll not only be helping the environment, you’ll be saving yourself some cash!