Litterers are a lazy lot and are part of the problem
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]