LIVING ALONG A BUSY STREET means more than dealing with noisy traffic. It also means dealing with litter. Tossed beer bottles and cans. Fast food bags and containers. Lots of those. Even a tire, which rolled off a vehicle and slammed into the side of our house, just missing the gas meter many years ago. And this winter, a stop sign propelled into the yard after a car went out of control on the icy street, jumped the curb and took out the sign.
It bugs me when people litter. The phrase “Don’t be a litterbug” comes to mind. If you’re of a certain age, you perhaps remember that 1960s anti-littering ad campaign. Lady Bird Johnson (First Lady to President Lyndon B. Johnson) championed efforts to stop littering and to limit billboards visually littering our roadways.
As a teen, I once picked up litter from road ditches in my home county of Redwood. Employed through a southwestern Minnesota summertime program for low income families, I joined three other girls in working for the county highway department. One day we were tasked with collecting litter. Now decades later I recall only two of the many items we gathered from ditches—a dirty diaper and a torn up love letter. During our noon lunch break, we pieced together that letter. I wish I recalled the words written on that lined notebook paper. But I only remember how entertained we were.
Thankfully we’ve come a long ways in eliminating litter—although I still see plenty—and in reducing trash sent to the landfill. Recycling helps. My eldest daughter and her husband even participate in organic recycling. In this program offered through their south metro county, they save food scraps, tissues, napkins and more which can be recycled. Yes, it’s extra work. But I applaud this additional effort to limit what goes into our landfills.
Of all the littering, other than in my own yard, I’m particularly bothered by the dumping of appliances, mattresses and furniture into ditches and along roadways. I recognize getting rid of these unwanted items can prove costly. Some cities host annual community clean-up days to collect items like these. And maybe that’s the solution because not everyone can afford disposal. Make the disposal easy, convenient and free, or low cost.
Therein lies a benefit of living along a busy street. Whenever Randy and I want to get rid of something, because we’ve upgraded or no longer need the item, we set it curbside tagged with a FREE sign. And each time, someone stops to claim our discards. Swing set. Recliner. Lamp. End table. Headboard and frame. Bookshelf. And more items that I’m not recalling. Sure, maybe we could have sold these things, but we didn’t want the hassle. And, if someone needed what we no longer needed, then we were happy to give it away.
But please, dear people, who pass by our house either on foot or by vehicle, we don’t need your litter.
TELL ME: What litter/discards/trash bother you in particular? What especially unusual items have you seen tossed in a ditch, onto a sidewalk, along the road, at a nature center…? Do you recycle and, if yes, what?
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling