Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Talking Trash -- Warning: TWBAR (This Will Be A Rant)

I am not going to show you a picture of litter in my driveway, today. Trust me. It looks the same everywhere. But a little daffodil –looking down (at the trash)--can only do so much to create country ambience when it’s competing for visual superiority among heaps of paper, plastic, and aluminum garbage!

Every time I go to the mailbox and find a Bud-Lite can flung out someone’s car window, taunting me as it glitters fiendishly in my driveway, or a pile of McDonald’s Styrofoam hamburger “wrappers” and leftover hamburgers, rummaged the previous evening by a poor old possum (whose every scrounged meal is a Happy Meal), leaving the by-products shredded and scattered, or a Pizza Hut box which crows were scavenging just before my arrival--strewn across my normally pristine entryway, I seethe with anger. I even found an old sock (with a hole in it) the other day. Worst of all, I guess, are the big BAGS of trash that someone purposely dumped in the depression off to the right of my driveway, because they were too lazy to take them to the landfill on free day.

Every landfill in our state offers a “free day” so even those who are strapped for cash can stash their trash at the dump. Who ARE these people? More to the point, who do they THINK they are? What do they look like? How can they be so barbaric and poorly educated as to drop THEIR trash in MY HOME? Or anywhere, for that matter….expecting all of us to pick up behind them?! I simply cannot call it “thoughtless.” Everyone knows about litter these days. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to dump your trash on someone else’s ground. If you don’t have a litter bag in your car, you’re supposed to take refuse home and put it in the waste can.

Yes, I know about the Adopt-A-Highway Program. I guess I am resentful. The principle of this arrangement, simply grates on my sensibilities. I know: somebody’s gotta pick it up….and we want our driveways clean….but it angers me to have to clean up behind slobs.  But, of course, some of our tax dollars go toward litter clean-up anyway...

We have even had delivery trucks pass through our farm –in and out—making a delivery, only to find candy wrappers, tossed out the window of their truck on their way!

People, you need to know that every single piece of trash, no matter how seemingly infinitesimal, is VISIBLE to us country-types when you toss it out your car window. We SEE it. I know…you’re sorry….you never thought about it because teeny tiny wrappers are commonplace in cities. The wind lifts them and they swirl out of sight in the traffic---Lifesavers individually wrapped with those cute little cellophane protectors, small boxes that once held Dots candy, a Reese’s brown paper cup…..are gross anomalies amidst the pastoral beauty here. This kind of litter, out here JOTOLR, stands out like a polar bear among penguins.

And you know what the number one object of litter is? You’ll never guess.

Cigarette butts. Yep. That’s right. The butts are made of cellulose acetate (manufactured right near here JOTOLR, providing good jobs.) They're not made of cotton, which would at least be biodegradable, eventually. The acetate takes decades to break down, environmentally. And the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, as well--not to mention they're responsible for setting many fires during summer’s dry conditions.

There’s an organization called Cigarette Litter.  It lists campaigns against cigarette butts throughtout the world. In the UK the Gedling Borough Council says, “It is estimated that 40% of the litter in the Borough is smoking related, be it wrappers, cartons, or cigarette ends.” Estimates run as high as several trillion cigarette butts littered worldwide every year. That’s billions of cigarette butts flicked, one at a time, onto our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, farms, gardens, and other public places every single day!

I’m sure most smokers don’t even think about this, but out here JOTOLR we SEE those butts. They are eventually visible no matter where they are flicked. I have picked up behind unthinking visitors, who, standing and talking, or driving in or out, toss the butt out into the pasture (or onto our weedy “lawn”), thinking the butts will go unnoticed. Believe me, they ARE noticed.

Here are some salient litter facts:

Nationwide, the annual cost of roadside litter control is $115 million; (wouldn’t that go a long way toward providing health care for everyone!) West Virginia ranks among the WORST eight states in the country for litter; Virginia ranks in the BEST eight states; West Virginia spends more than $1 million annually to remove litter from state highways; West Virginia’s highway litter is composed of 59 percent paper, 16 percent cans, 6 percent bottles, 6 percent plastics, and 13 percent miscellaneous; most common items found are fast-food wrappers; second most common item—beer cans; cigarette butts are not considered, though, when addressing litter cleanup. 

So, please…if you’ve been guilty of dumping the leftovers of your Happy Meal in somebody’s driveway, or flicking your cigarette butt out the window…take a little time to consider what we country-dwellers are wishing on you:

If you with litter do disgrace
And spoil the beauty of this place
May indigestion rack your chest
And ants invade your pants and vest!


  1. Elora, Wow, this is a great post! I am with your thoughts 101%! When I moved from Santa Fe to Kentucky I was astounded by all the trash piled and thrown in fields, around houses, along streams, and along sides of roads. It sicken me. And the sad part is that hardly a local ever mentions this landfill look. Why? I think that they have included it in their cultural patterns. They just don't see it anymore. As an example, I have to go down to the mailboxe along the main road to get my mail. One day I was just about down to the mailbox when I saw a neighbor sorting through his mail at his mailbox and ever once in a while he would throw out a piece of mail to the wind landing a small distance from him. Apparently these were ads or something he didn't want so he felt perfectly right in trashing the area. This area where I live is absolutely beautiful -- and for the most part you can drive many areas without being exposed to trash. And yes we do have citizen road clean-ups. And yes, it is unfortunate that we need them. If everyone just did their part it could change. What I feel is missing is education -- education from our leaders and educational institutions. They need to step up to the plate and open up the eyes of those that think trashing is just another thing to do in their spare time. Talk about ranting -- I think I just joined your rant. --- barbara

  2. We don't seem to be too badly affected by litter though a dissapointing amount is revealed when the hedges or verges are cut. Just last week someone, probably who had been paid to remove a carpet, simply dumped the folded up carpet and underlay by the side of our country road. I did ring our local waste service who also take the recyling and they took it away in a few days. It costs nothing for the ordinary person to use the dump/recycling centre (no food waste allowed, that has to wait for the bin men) though I believe tradesmen do have to pay a fee. We are too far away for fast food rubbish but it does make a mess in town.

  3. Forgot to mention that fly-tipping is taken very seriously by local councils and they will go through the rubbish to look for addresses so that they can prosecute the offenders.

  4. I hate it when I see trash in the ditches or beside the road - I could rant with you but I don't think I can add anything. You covered it beautifully! blessings, marlene

  5. You've touched on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Upon moving to the farm, we adoped a two-mile section of highway under the WV Adopt-a-Highway program and picked up trash at least three times/year for six or seven years. We would make it a farm event and as many as a dozen friends would show up and we would spend a few hours picking up all kinds of trash on the side of the road. On average, we would pick up about 13 bags of trash each pickup and the bags would be so heavy from glass bottles you could not drag them around anymore. We would leave them on the side of the road, come by with a truck when finished, collect them all, then place them in a wide spot for the state road folks to pick up. We estimate that about 50% of the trash we picked up was beverage containers (i.e. beer, liquor, and wine bottles, and plastic soda and water bottles). To make a long story short, we ended up quiting the program a few years ago in protest because our elected officials would not pass a common sense bottle bill that would charge a deposit for all these beverage containers. With a stroke of the pen they could elimate half of the trash on our roadways and waterways. I forget how many years in a row the bill has been introduced and each year it gets buried in some subcommittee and dies. This is just another case of our elected officials siding with big business. In short, I figured if they wouldn't do their part, I would quit picking up the trash. What was really frustrating was that every year I would contact the governor and my state senators and delegates to show my support for the bill, and would you beleive only one delegate actually answered me back. The governor also responded, but only after I flamed him for not responding in a Beckley Register Herald letter to the editor. Now I just drive by all the garbage on the side of the road and try not to think about it.