Friday, August 31, 2012

This Post Is Garbage

This is a garbage post.

Today I braved the heat and lugged our accumulated papers (sorted by type), cardboard, and plastics to a local free recycling center located on the edge of the Union College campus.  And as I was unloading, a song from my youth popped into my head.  It was one heard on hundreds of public service announcements (PSAs) in the United States in the early 1960s.  It was set to the tune of "Oh, Dear!  What can the matter be?"  (Hmmm.  Was that a Mad Men-like advertising ploy, I wonder?)  And it went like this:  "Please, please, don't be a litterbug, 'cause every litter bit hurts."  I remember litterbug poster contests, and a later slogan, "Pitch in!"

No one under 50 can imagine the unsightly junk that used to line our roadways -- beer bottles, scrap metal, and disposable containers of all kinds.  And, to the extent the PSA campaign, largely funded by a nonprofit organization, Keep America Beautiful (KAB), focused on roadside litter abatement, it was pretty successful.  A 2009 KAB study authored by P. Wesley Schultz of California State University and Steven R. Stein of Environmental Resources Planning LLC, Litter in America:  National Findings and Recommendations, showed that overall littering of metal, glass, paper and beverage containers had significantly decreased -- by over 70%.  However, plastics littering had increased by over 165%.

We live in a throw-away society.  Over 500 billion plastic bags are made per year.  Over 300 million tons of plastics are manufactured, and half of those are single-use "disposable" items.  Although we don't see many plastics strewn along American roadways, they are insidiously hidden in massive landfills and in the oceans.
For more information and some startling photos showing the extent of plastic litter in our oceans, visit, or read the book by Charles Moore & Cassandra Phillips, Plastic Ocean:  How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans (Avery: 2011), available in paperback September 4, 2012.

Ocean plastic pollution is a global problem -- not as easily contained as litter in US roadside ditches.  And the scope of the problem is a bit overwhelming.  But we can each do our small part to prevent the problem from getting worse while potential solutions are explored.  Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.

And when the cashier asks you, "Paper or plastic?"  Smile and respond, "Neither!  I brought my own reusable shopping tote."

LeAnn aka pasqueflower


  1. I remember the "Don't litter" Campaign. I take plastic(1 and 2), paper and cardboard to our recycle center, grocery bags go back to the store. I have reusable totes but bags still accumulate and glass is crushed at the dump for use by the road crew people. Good for you and it reminds me that I have basement full of paper that needs to go!

  2. Good job! At the shop we encourage people to use the recycled paper bags we provide. We do have one size in the plastic option but it is made out of recycled materials. And most of the time people will actually opt our of a bag all together. Gotta love the green initiative!

  3. You know what's disgusting? While there might not be an ounce of littler on the highways or suburbia, in my neighborhood (well, the whole of Baltimore, really) our streets look like landfills. People really don't care. I've seen people sweep trash into the gutters. Ask them where that trash goes and they'll look at you like you have 3 heads and say, "the bay, why?" Just shake my head.

  4. It's great to see so many recycling dumpsters around these days. My town has one and the town we do our shopping in has 2 or 3. Making it convenient for people is a big step in getting people to participate. It's also nice that here in Iowa we get a refund for our cans and bottles. I'm not gonna throw money out my window :)

  5. I never could understand why everyone continues to buy disposable items when the whole world is talking "green."

    I for one, am trying hard not to do that. I refill my water bottles (with filtered water) instead of buying new ones, try to use towels in place of paper towels and napkins, just to name a few things.

    I hope you have a great weekend!

  6. I remember that don't litter campaign and Keep America Beautiful slogan. It's very sad that we live in a throw away society, but every little bit helps. I love my reusable grocery bags, they are so much easier to carry.
    Everyday Inspired