Trash Talk Amongst Friends

You are the cure for litter

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, “ ?” 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!

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Nick Whitten August 16, 2012 at 10:39 AM
FINE THEM! In a world where money is everything and every phone has a camera just take their picture, preferably of them committing the violation, and allow the police to hit them hard in the pocket. FYI, I always pick up garbage if I see it and around here its a lot. Back in Vermont (where I'm from), littering rarely happens because people CARE.
Connie Moser August 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Hi Nick, Thanks so much for your comment and I agree about a thousand percent! Fairfax County has a citizen program for cigarette butts. If a volunteer sees someone throw a cigarette butt out the window, they have a card to fill out with the offender's license plate. Then, the offender gets a letter telling them they were seen littering on "this date" and "this location" and here's the license plate number, and tell the offender it is against the law to litter. I wish instead it would state, "You are fined in the amount of $100.00!" I really appreciate that you pick up litter. Keep up the good work. I won't stop caring, but I do have to gripe about it sometimes :-)
BEVERLY WATKINS August 20, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Yard Sales signs still up after the yard sale. Too bad you could not take the yard sale sign down, find the house and give them a hefty fine. Or let people know that they have one day after the sale to remove the sign or they will get a fine. Just like the politicians have to remove their signs after the elections are over. It's just strange that they have time to make the signs, post but, don't take them down.
Connie Moser August 20, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Oh, I agree, Beverly! I have lobbied for just that effort! It is illegal to post yard sale, lost dog, granite counter tops, avoid foreclosure, massage...all of those signs stuck on poles, zip tied, nailed, and taped to stop signs ARE illegal and subject to $100.00 fine! They should be fined twice if the sign falls and becomes litter!


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