The last of the snow finally melted in Pittsburgh, just in time for the first day of spring. Sadly, the melting revealed discarded soda cans, candy wrappers, dryer sheets, cigarette butts and other miscellaneous items. It was disgusting. So this weekend I took a couple of bags and walked my small block to pick up the trash. Then, on Monday I carried a bag with me on my walk to work to pick up trash on that half-mile route.
While it’s easy to dismiss litter as an eyesore and ignore it, there are environmental consequences to turning a blind eye.
Yes, April showers bring May flowers. The story that goes untold is that April showers also flush litter to the sea. Rainwater carries trash from the street to the storm drain where it moves through the sewer system only to get dumped into your local waterways. Once there, the bellies of fish and birds are filled with disposable lighters, bottle caps and colorful bits of plastic because they can’t discern the plastic from their prey. Elk and deer die when they eat plastic bags caught in brush or trees. Cigarette butts pollute the ground and water with carcinogens, toxins and highly flammable chemicals.
Not only does litter have an environment toll, it comes at a high cost that is often paid with tax dollars. Municipalities have to filter pollutants from drinking water, clear litter from clogged storm drains, and remove litter for beautification. In Pennsylvania alone, more than $10 million is spent every year to pick up roadside litter.
The good news is that people caused the litter problem and people can fix it. Since life’s not fair, it’s unlikely the litterers will suddenly gain a conscience and clean up after themselves. But, you are awesome so I know you’ll do it!
Arm yourself with a pair of work gloves, a trash bag and a recycling bag. Then, hit the streets in your ‘hood. When your done, take a picture and send it to us on Twitter or Facebook. Tell us about how much you collected or an interesting thing you found.