Other people’s junk

Today’s Daily Prompt from the WordPress Daily Post is “Junk.”  Coincidently, I’ve been thinking about that very topic…

bottlesThe public stretches of riverbank attract folks with fishing poles and buckets of bait. Frankly the whole idea of fishing in the river makes me kind of squeamish. Lovely as it is to look at, it’s not the cleanest of rivers. And I’m not just talking about the mud.

But what I really mind about the fishers is what they leave behind.

Someone has abandoned two broken lawn chairs in one popular fishing spot. Someone has constructed a makeshift platform out of old plastic milk crates, presumably to provide some footing when the muddy bank is slick. Someone has left behind cups and bottles and cigarette butts.

chairThere’s a garbage can just up the hill by the path.

But hey, it’s up the hill, right? Who’s going to go to all that effort?

It seems like the effort to deal appropriately with junk is way too “uphill” for many people. It’s easier to abandon that worn out couch or mattress behind the dumpster instead of arranging to have it hauled away. It’s easier to pitch that big cardboard box into the dumpster than to take five minutes to break it down into smaller pieces that will fit in the recycling bin.  It’s easier to dump that old TV that no one wants than to carry it to the car and drive it to the e-waste depot.

cratesToday while I was out walking I passed by an empty bottle from some “good for the environment” biodegradable dish soap—lying by the road. Oh, the irony.

I also spied a neatly tied plastic bag—of the kind that come in long rolls that you tuck in your pocket when you walk the dog. Someone had gone to the trouble to clean up after their dog, and then for some reason left the bag and its icky contents sitting under a tree. Nice try folks.

And you really don’t want to get me started on cigarette butts. It was hard to be polite when I finally asked my upstairs neighbour to quit flicking his down onto my patio. Seriously buddy, how would you feel if I started tossing my garbage up onto your balcony?

Some days I’m tempted to take a garbage bag down to the river’s edge and clean  up the mess from the fishers myself. I may yet do it, because if those chairs are still there at freeze-up they will most certainly end up in the river when the ice thaws in the spring.

But it saddens me to think that if I clean it up—if anyone cleans it up—then those who created the mess in the first place will have gotten away with leaving me their junk. And spring will come. And there will be another coffee cup. Another broken chair. Because look, we dumped them here before and everything looks just fine.

I catch myself wondering how often I pick up other people’s junk and spare them the consequence of their own bad behaviour? And it occurs to me: I don’t think I’m talking about coffee cups and cigarette butts any more.


9 thoughts on “Other people’s junk

  1. I really think it is time for another public service campaign against litter When I was a young child, folks routinely tossed trash out of car windows. There was the “Litterbug, Beep, Beep” campaign (thanks to Lady Bird Johnson” — you were supposed to beep your horn twice if you saw someone toss something out. It was followed years later with the weeping Indian campaign. We need to do a new one.

    Where I live, there was an added cultural element. When sin
    Guns were posted in several languages, littering was reduced significantly.

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  6. Gloria

    I identify with picking up other’s junk that has nothing to do with coffee cups and cigarette butts. Well written. If I had written this, it would be angry in tone and judgmental. Your way is so much better. Thank you.

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