Monday, April 15, 2013

The case against litter


Aliens from outer space could be excused for believing that our species is inordinately fond of littering. We litter a lot. We litter on the land; we litter on the beaches; we litter in the hills, on the seas and oceans; we litter on just about anything and anywhere. To get an idea of the extent of this crazy propensity of ours to litter see “Trashed |No Place for Waste,”coming to a theatre near you. Given all the activities about the universe a sentient being might engage in—eating, building, procreating, thinking, and fighting—creating and tossing waste products improperly, with complete abandonment, without consent, and in inappropriate locations must be the strangest of all.

Litter provides few nutrients, except to those creatures indiscriminate in their eating habits, like rats and some insects we rather not attract. Litter poisons animals and plants and befouls water and soil. Litter isn’t especially attractive, unless you’re a Dadaist hell bent on making a point about the absurdity of litter. Litter doesn’t provide jobs. As a matter of fact volunteers from around the world must give their time to pick up those cigarette butts, diapers, plastic wrappers, straws, instant trash (use once, then throw away) drinking cups, and the unimaginable remains from innumerable things we use and then discard.

Just this weekend, Monroe County brought over five-hundred folks together to PickUpTheParks. Soon the City of Rochester will begin its yearly Clean Sweep program to pick up other people’s litter. People in the thousands will pick up the litter of those in the tens of thousands. They will pick up litter along our walking/biking trails, litter in our gutters, which can get into our storm water systems and into our drinking water. Litter on our sidewalks, our lawns, our parking lots, our streets, our playgrounds, and those ubiquitous plastic bags in our trees that will remain blowing in the wind until someone else disposes of them properly.

If you are concerned about the state of litter, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 from 4:30pm – 6:00pm @ Rochester Greenovation,1199 E. Main St, Rochester, NY 14609, our Zero Waste Committee Meeting will include the filming of “Bag It The Movie: Is Your Life Too Plastic?” We’ll have a discussion on local attempts to ban the plastic bag in our region.

Though litter seems to be everywhere and has always existed, this isn’t so. Plastic shopping bags, for example, didn’t exist before 1960. (Read Plastic Ocean by Captain Charles Moore.) . Litter is a relatively new human phenomenon with no worldly value, an externality of our economic system. There is no litter in Nature as there is no waste; everything gets assimilated, reused, or becomes part of a dispersal system for seeds and soil enrichment.

So why litter at all? Littering isn’t especially fun, as most litter simply flutters down to the ground in a lackluster way and doesn’t have a nice bounce to it like a ball. It doesn’t enhance our attractiveness. It doesn’t increase our chances of survival. It doesn’t convey information, except that we are a strange species who can oftentimes be seen as a bipedal creature with a hazardous trail of stuff soiling our existence.

I recommend that we don’t litter. Just saying…

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