I am just one of many who are writing in to address the massive amount of trash along our roadways and elsewhere.
I live between a neighborhood market and a KFC, and by the time folks reach my house, they have finished their snack or meal, and they deposit their trash in front of my house. It’s a daily chore to stay on top of it. Out driving last week after heavy rains swelled the ditches, most debris had floated to the top, exposing just how much trash there really is, not just in town but rurally as well. People use parking lots to empty out their ash trays and their cars. At sporting events, spectators trash the stands instead of putting trash in any of the numerous receptacles provided at venues and arenas (often just feet away), or upon exiting. I recycle and know full well how quickly trash can accumulate for just one person. Most every product today comes in either foil, paper, a box, metal or plastic, with plastic being the bulk of it.
For us to ever get a handle on the situation, it needs to be addressed at the elementary level. Why can’t science teachers spend “Earth Day” in March to educate students on low long it takes trash to bio-degrade, toxins left behind by trash in our waterways, the cost of damage to structures, roads and etc. that are not left trash free? Or have students do a day of community service of trash pickup, even if just on their campus or playgrounds. I assure you if they pick up trash they will become more of the solution than the problem and may even educate their parents through the process.
There is a wonderful PBS series called “Life After People” which explains how long humans’ imprints last and would be a great educational tool for city/county codes and litter patrol to sponsor at the Opera House, after COVID-19 restrictions have lifted. It would, I think, appeal to most all ages. I would also be a good tool for teachers. To put things in perspective, think DNA, such a tiny micro-organism that is readable up to 1-5 million years and in perfect conditions can last up to 6-8 million years. Now think of something as large as a garbage bag that takes 10-1,000 years to completely degrade.
When I was a child there was a great nationwide ad campaign that featured a Native American watching his land, our country being trashed and the effects on animals, water and people. The ending frame was him with a tear rolling down his face. It was very impactful to me and obviously made a lasting impression. That coupled with parents who taught my brother and I to respect ourselves, others and our environment. There were many national campaigns in the mid-50’s to 60’s that addressed environmental issues, another was Smoky bear. Anyone of my generation will remember those ad campaigns. It’s time to bring those back; they made a difference.
As a child, our car had a heavy plastic litter bag with some company advertisement and circle for hanging it on the cigarette lighter, and that is where we put our trash when in the car. Just such a simple task that makes a big difference. Perhaps, when our car taxes or tags are sent one of these should be enclosed. We have to learn to think outside the box and be creative in how we address issues at hand and not just slap a fine on the seldom caught litterer, or having cleanup day with volunteers who are already the ones who do what they are supposed to do. We need to reach the ones that don’t do their part. It must start with education. This would be a great opportunity for DNR, Clemson Extension, citizens and even the Art Gallery to partner and collaborate for something good. (I say the gallery because there is a great Washington artist, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, who designs huge ocean sculptures strictly from ocean trash she has picked up along the northwest coast.) Pozzi could give inspiration to artists or inspiration for a gallery showing highlighting such artists, as there are other notable artists along these lines. Pozzi has many videos on the internet worth watching.
Everyone should be encouraged to do their part. Creativity and education can go a long way. There is even a special day to help promote it called “Earth Day.”
It’s time we make a real effort to address this ongoing problem that continues to plague our community.
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