Lit­ter­ers are a lazy lot and are part of the prob­lem

The Standard Journal - - POLICE & FIRE - OPIN­ION

Af­ter my last col­umn, I re­ceived an email from a reader named Reese. He made some great com­ments about my col­umn, then told me not to get him started about lit­ter­ing. I hope that this doesn’t put him into a spin, but I do hope that it helps ev­ery­one un­der­stand the need for lit­ter dis­ci­pline.

I once no­ticed a young passenger toss a piece of trash from my car. I stopped and in­structed her to pick it up. Her re­ply was, “I don’t see it.” My re­ply was, “Then pick up some­thing else.”

Lit­ter­ing is a blem­ish on our land­scape, it con­tains germs, and it harms our earth. We see crews who could be do­ing pub­lic ser­vice by pick­ing up trash along the road. They could also be con­cerned ci­ti­zens who have adopted that par­tic­u­lar stretch of road. That en­ergy could bet­ter be used to men­tor or read to chil­dren, work with Habi­tat for Humanity, or han­dle other worth­while causes like hos­pi­tal work.

Some folks don’t ex­hibit a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for our streets, side­walks, beaches and parks. To them, pick­ing up their trash is some­one else’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. The funny thing is that they send a mes­sage that they know they are com­mit­ting a crime. The lo­ca­tion of most lit­ter com­mu­ni­cates to the world that lit­ter­ers are scaredy-cats, be­cause more lit­ter is found along roads where there are no houses, busi­ness or spy­ing eyes. In other words, lit­ter­bugs don’t want to be seen do­ing the aw­ful, dan­ger­ous and il­le­gal ugly.

One sunny day while on pa­trol, my po­lice car sat be­hind a car at a traf­fic light. The car’s win­dow slowly low­ered and a hand ex­tended out­side. It was ut­ter shock and amaze­ment what came next. Like pour­ing molasses onto a bis­cuit, an ash­tray gen­tly tipped and two dozen cig­a­rette butts hit the road. A light­ning bolt trig­gered my hand to switch on my sin­gle bub­blegum blue lights. I was stand­ing at the driver’s win­dow quicker than a baby cries for its paci­fier.

The excuse she gave me was that her hus­band gets an­gry when she leaves cig­a­rette butts in the car’s ash­tray. She didn’t seem the least bothered that the pub­lic would get an­gry about her leav­ing cig­a­rette butts on the road.

It’s easy to say that some people lit­ter be­cause they don’t want lit­ter in their car or on their own prop­erty. I guess

it would likely dam­age their feel­ings if they had to wait un­til they found a trash can. Many of us tend to stereo­type lit­ter­bugs, but they re­ally come in all sizes, shapes, ages and all lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion. Com­monly, lit­ter­ers range in age be­tween 18 and 34.

Every­thing seems to be tossed along the road these days. Fast food con­tain­ers, ba­bies, pets, bod­ies, cars and unimag­in­able things. In ad­di­tion to com­mu­nity ser­vice and adopt-aroad vol­un­teers, a huge amount of our tax dol­lars goes to­ward pick­ing up lit­ter. That makes as much sense as polic­ing all the ta­bles in a fast food restau­rant be­cause the pre­vi­ous cus­tomers didn’t want to han­dle their own trash.

Some people don’t seem to care what hap­pens to our two or four legged an­i­mals un­less they’re dogs or cats. An­nu­ally, about nine bil­lion tons of lit­ter finds its way to the ocean. It kills mil­lions of birds and many thou­sand sea an­i­mals be­cause they eat plas­tic or other lit­ter, or be­cause they are trapped in trash bags or other plas­tics. Some lit­ter can take more than six hu­man life­times to dis­in­te­grate. Is there a con­nec­tion be­tween lit­ter­ers and their lack of re­gard for their de­scen­dants?

People who are in the big­gest hurry seem to be the ones who lit­ter the most. People in a hurry miss the finer things in life. Some pre­fer to travel back­roads rather than the in­ter­state. They drive with their win­dows down, smell in­cred­i­ble smells, and see relics of the past and won­der­ful sights not ex­pe­ri­enced on ma­jor high­ways.

Lit­ter must be a re­gional thingy. In Door County Wis­con­sin, even tiny homes are im­mac­u­lately groomed. They have no tires or junk cars in the yard, no lit­ter, and ev­ery home boasts beds of lovely flow­ers.

Lit­ter­ing can be a symp­tom of the bro­ken win­dow the­ory that com­pares dis­or­der to crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity in a neigh­bor­hood. Lit­ter­ing can stunt area growth be­cause no one wants to lo­cate their home or busi­ness in a landfill. Lit­ter­ers are a lazy lot and they are part of the prob­lem. They de­stroy our earth, even though there is no bet­ter place to live.

Char­lie Sewell is a re­tired Pow­der Springs po­lice chief. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Char­lie: Rem­i­nis­cences Filled With Twists of Devil­ment, De­vo­tion and A Lit­tle Dan­ger

Here and There” is avail­able on Amazon. Email him at re­tired­chief­[email protected]


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