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Intimate with Litter

When I’m hiking I like to carry some hard candy in the waist belt pocket of my pack. Sometimes Jolly Ranchers. Worthers Originals on this trip. They come in such small wrappers; nobody would even notice them on the ground, let alone know it was me who discarded them. But I would know, and I never want to be someone who contributes even a tiny bit to the disgusting amount of trash along the road. So the wrappers go into a ziplock bag that I keep in my pocket to be discarded in a trash can the next time I see one.

Observing roadside litter at three miles per hour is much different than seeing it from the window of a car doing 60. Individual pieces come into view several minutes before you can even discern what they are. You have time to observe and ponder each piece.

It seems appropriate to make excuses for some of it. Car parts – tire tread, fan belts, timing belts, radiator caps, various hoses – pieces the driver likely didn’t know were lost until a bit farther down the road. Other items of value that likely fell from or blew out of a truck or trailer – furniture, mattresses, appliances, tools, hats, boots, toys. There was an economic loss to the owner (who nonetheless should have taken better care in securing the load). Some items observed were new or near new. Keepers, if I was willing to add the bulk and weight to my backpack.

The overwhelming majority of items are absolutely inexcusable. I often wonder what kind of thought process allows a person to toss trash out of their car window. Would it really be such a bother to hang on to that trash until they could find a trash can in the next town? Perhaps they have timed the process in the past – one minute to pull off the road, one minute to get out of the car and walk 10 feet to the trash can, another minute to walk back to the car, and a fourth minute to get back onto the road? Is their time so valuable they can’t spare that four minutes?

It is certainly possible that some items came out of vehicles accidentally. Loose items that blew out of the back of a pickup? Possible. But soiled diapers and feminine products? Unlikely either were removed accidentally by a strong gust of wind or a bump in the road. 

Glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper and styrofoam cups. Paper and styrofoam fast food containers. Plastic and paper bags. Cigarette cartons and chewing tobacco cans. And cigarette butts by the thousands – literally one every few inches along miles and miles of road. Tons of trash tossed out the window of a vehicle. Disgusting amounts of roadside litter, the majority of which comes from “convenience items”. Single use disposable is convenient. Single use disposable anything should be banned, or at least boycotted.

Roadkill Addendum

The following statistics were not obtained scientifically. They are based entirely on my observations of roadkill in the south compared to roadkill back home in Utah.

  • The south has more possums and raccoons than Utah.
  • Utah and the south have roughly the same number of skunks.
  • The south has fewer deer than Utah (or the whitetails in the south are smarter than the mule deer in Utah and stay away from the roads).
  • The south has armadillos.

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