Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My yard is not the landfill & other examples of littering May 19, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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AS A TEEN, I LABORED one summer for the Redwood County Highway Department through a program for low income youth. Our team of four high school students mostly plotted surveyors’ work onto graph paper, but also flagged one day and picked up litter in road ditches.

That experience of gathering debris which motorists and their passengers tossed out windows left me with zero tolerance for litter. Pick up a dirty disposable diaper, too much paper (with the exception of the torn love letter we found and pieced together over lunch) and too many beverage containers and you can appreciate my perspective.

I don’t understand why people use the roadside as a public dumping grounds for trash they are too lazy to toss into the garbage.



What prompted this post? The first was the recent deposit of a McDonald’s bag into the middle of the side street by my Faribault home. The second was the dropping, or tossing, of a beer bottle onto the sidewalk in my front yard a few days later. At least the glass didn’t shatter.


I found this tire repair tool in a street corner flowerbed.


I live along a busy street on a corner lot which means lots of stuff—newspapers, Styrofoam containers, plastic bags, cans, bottles and even a tire repair tool—ends up on my property.


This ball rolled into my yard this winter.


I’ve acquired a few balls over the years that have rolled down the side street hill and into my yard. Typically I have no idea from whence they’ve come.



To the left in this image, you can see the black tire mark on the siding.


Once a tire broke loose from a car and careened down the hill, just missing the gas hook-up on the side of the house. A black rubber streak still marks that near disaster. Thankfully the motorist claimed his tire.

A driver also claimed his car when it rolled, driverless, down a steep side street and struck my next door neighbor’s house many years ago.

The run-away tire and car are not exactly litter. But I expect tread-bare tires are dumped in ditches and vehicles are abandoned where they shouldn’t be. I don’t understand this illegal dumping. Why do people do this?


Photographed at River Bend Nature Center on Saturday afternoon.


I especially don’t understand the leaving behind of trash at a nature preserve. On Saturday I spotted a Burger King cup on a bench in the outdoor amphitheater at River Bend Nature Center. A nature center, for gosh sakes. This is the last place I would expect to see improperly disposed of trash.


TELL ME: What’s the worst example of littering you’ve seen?

Recently, the Trinity Faribault Radio Club cleaned a section of Interstate 35 near Faribault through the Adopt-a-Highway program. Seven individuals picked up 13 (40-gallon) bags of trash. The traveling trophy for the most unusual find was awarded to the volunteer who found a 10-foot long motor home awning.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


30 Responses to “My yard is not the landfill & other examples of littering”

  1. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    The worse trash I had to deal with was 2 hypodermic needles in the sandbox at the park. I made sure that one got space in our local newspaper. It made me so mad. But – oh dear me – I’m afraid that last photo could have been of my drink cup inadvertently left behind after a rest to catch my breath. Sorry.

  2. The best is when you see trash mere feet from a trash can, really?!? I despise gum and dislike dog poo left and not picked up – DISGUSTING!!! Some trash is NOT another person’s treasure. I was driving to work yesterday morning and there was a recliner in full out relax mode in the median – I think it dropped out of someone’s vehicle – hopefully not just dumped, but never know. Here’s to Keeping It Clean. Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    A torn love letter? Now there is a novel in the making.

    The worst thing I found on a roadside (in Dundas) was the carcasses of sever dozen headless deer. I called the DNR and the game warden just shook is head.

    Not far north of us, someone dumped a truck load of old tires on the road. We all know how that one works… you bill for deposing of the tires then pocket what the recycler would charge you by dumping them on local landowners or the township.

    In England, the mob takes truck loads of London’t garbage out into the country and dumps them on fields. Farmers in the surrounding area have taken to installing large metal gates on their field entrances….until the mob started stealing the gates and selling them down the road.

  4. J.Aaron Says:

    I see similar things all to often. My little area has cleaned up a little, but what bothers me the most is this; I love hiking and camping, nature reserves etc. everyone thinks they need to carve into the rocks and trees, or they wonder off the trails b/c they don’t know how bad it is to trample the vegetation. The things like that, that can’t be repaired bother me.

    • That’s a good point. Vandalism and graffiti in nature bug me, too. Once marred, as you say, they are never the same.

      • J.Aaron Says:

        I wrote a blog about several years ago- it’s always bothered me, but I have this dream of hiking the Appalachian trail, and I was on it during a vacation and couldn’t even relax or think even because of how stupid people were acting. Leaving beer cans in places full of beauty really bothers me- not because I’m against beer, but it’s so beautiful they obviously came there to take it in, and maybe felt the need to drink, but how can you walk away knowing you just left a bunch of trash?

  5. Don Says:

    Reminds me of the song “Alice’s restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie. While the song may be funny littering certainly is not. I recall a few years back observing an employee dump a fast food bag of garbage in the parking lot and walk away. I promptly picked it up and put it on the drivers seat of his car. Needless to say the person was not happy but it got the message across!

  6. Beth Ann Says:

    Littering is the worst, isn’t it? It is just disrespectful in all rights. I find random teeth flossers—that is one that I just don’t get. Why would you floss your teeth in public and then toss the flosser on the ground? I can not tell you how many I have found. I even found one in a bag of potting soil……

  7. Gunny Says:

    Like Don, I have seen acts almost exactly like the one he describes! Totally disgusting! Trash / dog poo is bad enough but when one finds controlled substances such as used needles, bags of marijuana and I have to call the police! On the tire, one person traveling about 40 MPH through a curve lost his entire wheel rim which hurled about 50 feet taking out a gas pump! However bad that was, it is the purposely disposing of waste where it is not needed!

    People seem to think they are keeping others gainfully employed tossing out their trash or that certain areas are OK to be used as Pet Parks.

  8. sunsunnyblog Says:

    One of my biggest pet peeve! I just don’t get it! This is our world, why are you making a mess????? Ahhhhh!

    What makes my blood boil when people throw stuff outside their car. Like… why don’t you just keep your junk in your car until you find a trash can or get home?

    On a side note, although somewhat related to littering is people not picking up after their dog. So inconsiderate and rude. Why are you giving someone else the likelihood of stepping in it or their dog stepping in it? And if this is your regular route, next time you walk it YOU or YOUR dog
    might step in it! Jeeeeeez people!

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  9. treadlemusic Says:

    I have come to really appreciate the cleanliness of MN/Midwest roadsides!! Having spent some Winter days in Texas, I am at a loss as to how such a state(TX) can allow their geography to be a total garbage/trash dump…….it’s over whelming how bad their ditches/green spaces are!!!! Our resort spent a Saturday morning doing the pick-up ‘thing’ and the common/most prevalent trash was from the “Stripes/Valero” gas station at one end of our roadside stretch. Clearly, the “source” of so much of this and, yet, what to do to raise the sensibilities of the purchasers!!??
    It has been noted, nationally, that at the finish of an event/gathering of environmentalist/green-space defender types, the trash left behind (everywhere) contradicts their voices!!!!

  10. Mike Says:

    Nothing annoys me more when I pull into a state park area and someone has dumped a bag of their fast food wrappers or drink cups in the parking area 10 feet from a garbage can or their candy bar wrappers in the forest. Seriously can’t you walk the 10 feet to the garbage can or put the wrapper in your pocket?

  11. Jackie Says:

    Littering is so sad to me, I’m thankful for the “clean up” days when folks get out and pick up the litter that apparently was to difficult to throw in a trash container. I have done road side clean ups a few times, but I really should do more!

  12. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Ugh… such a bad habit

  13. Sweet Posy Dreams Says:

    Every morning when we walk the dogs, we pick up litter along the way. That’s in our neighborhood, along a main street, and on the bike path. There’s litter everywhere it seems. It really drives my husband crazy. I think the one that gets him the most are the mini liquor bottles that are constantly left along the curb throughout the neighborhood.

  14. Littlesundog Says:

    We deal with a LOT of trash from the neighborhood south of the alley (which runs along our entire south property fence). I get out two times a week to pick up everything from pizza and pop boxes, to candy wrappers and fast food trash, and of course liquor bottles and beer cans. I know most of it comes from a home just across the street where they do not bag their trash. Talking to them nicely, only brought on more trash and now jeering remarks as I walk with the trash bag picking up trash. That neighborhood has a lot of run-down rental homes, so there are also discarded items in the alley each time someone moves. Before FD and I moved here, people threw large items over our fence and it had become a dumping ground. I realized after patrolling that daily, that it was one neighbor in particular doing it (we put out a game camera finally, caught him in the act and confronted him). Finally, that activity has stopped and I find myself thankful that all we deal with now is the two day a week pickup. I think mindfulness of trash disposal needs to be brought up in schools. And more advertising about protecting our environment (with fines for being caught disposing trash inappropriately) can help.

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