A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Reflections on a roadside litter walk

Written September 24th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

One 20-minute walk in rural North Albany yielded this haul of roadside trash.

If you don’t like all the trash littering our rural roads, there’s something you can do. You can pick it up.

I often wonder what prompts people to open their car windows and toss out stuff. Maybe they count on nature to get rid of it, somehow.

More likely, though, they just don’t think about it. They get a soft drink on the way home, and when they’ve slurped it up, down comes the window and out go the cup, the plastic lid and the straw as well.

That explains all the cups from fast-food drive-throughs. What about the other stuff? The bits of plastic string, the wads of paper big and small, the empty pack of Marlboros?

It’s possible that some of the paper may blow out of the open backs of garbage trucks. I once waived down a Republic Services truck after watching pages of paper flutter out of the top for half a mile. The driver said there was nothing he could do. After all, there has to be an opening on the top that trash cans can emptied into.

But most of the trash I picked up the other day did not look like having been dropped accidentally.

Regardless of how it got there, most of that stuff looked like it would not decay on its own for a long time. And it won’t pick itself up. So if we want to see less of it on our roads, it’s up to us, every once in a while, to pick it up, take it home in a big plastic bag, and stuff it in the trash. (hh)

18 responses to “Reflections on a roadside litter walk”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    If the litter is on public property, it is the responsibility of local governments (city, county) to pick it up and dispose of it. Keeping public spaces clean and free of litter is an essential city/county service. You pay for it through your property tax.

    So don’t enable irresponsible behavior on the part of local government by picking up their trash. Hold them accountable.

    And it is the responsibility of the private property owner to maintain their property free of litter, no matter who dumped it there.

    Trespassing to clean up the litter is not recommended. You may be charged with a crime. You don’t encroach on your neighbor’s property to mow tall grass or remove ugly weeds without permission. Why trespass and pick up their litter?

    People litter because they believe people like Hasso or local government will pick up after them. It becomes an entitlement.

    So in a real way, Hasso, you’re making the problem worse.

    People are animals and slobs by nature. Fix that and you’ll be on the road to a permanent fix.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Government is “…of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

      PIck up trash Gordon. I’d say “Don’t be part of the problem” but people like you ARE the problem.

      • thomas earl cordier says:

        More derogatory personal comments Woods to Gordon. Hasso -stop this BS.
        Stop allowing this trash from littering your blog. enough

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          Hasso’s comment moderation policy is not posted or linked on his blog, so it appears he makes up the rules of acceptable speech as he goes along.

          He owns the blog and our comments don’t appear without his express approval.

          So we should comment knowing that his standards of acceptability are somewhat unpredictable.

          And not be surprised when he allows some obvious personal attacks but censors others.

          • Hasso Hering says:

            The trouble is in deciding if something is a personal attack. “What an idiot!” a commenter might say. Another might put it this way: “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.” Which is personal?

          • thomas earl cordier says:

            HH clearly “people like YOU ” is personal

    • Bill Maddy says:

      Gordon, I would be glad to share the responsibility of cleaning up other people’s garbage and dog feces dumped on my property. Just provide me with your address and I will share my responsibility with you. Does that attitude sound right? Of course not. The problem of littering needs to be nipped in the bud by teaching people at an early age respect for other people.

      • John Stacy says:

        It seems like much of the litter you’re describing is from homeless people. Claiming that it’s regular workers who roll down their windows and toss it out is an odd accusation. I work all over Oregon Salem Woodburn. Lots of window time. I have my own car garbage receptacle and get lots of soda and fast food and not once have I rolled down the window and tossed it. I have observed many homeless along sidewalks with their trash thrown all about. And remember those who work are the ones who pay the taxes so the government can do their jobs such as garbage and cleaning the streets.

  2. Bill Maddy says:

    It is sad that for eons there have been too many selfish people who have the attitude that “it’s not my backyard, so who cares?” This irksome attitude is the same for those who allow their dogs to defecate on private property landscapes but not their own backyard. Littering has always been illegal but difficult to enforce. With today’s widespread video technology, maybe enforce can be enhanced to reduce these selfish acts of littering public and private property.

  3. Wynona says:

    I understand that a lot of the trash is close to open fields, but how do you not pick up the trash people throw out in front of your house? We live on a busy rural road and pick up the stuff thrown out vehicles all the time. Because we care what we see outside of our windows. And don’t get me going on cigarette butts dropped everywhere- parking lots, roadways, sidewalks, etc.

  4. Rick says:

    Pick up at least one thing every time you take a walk.

  5. Linda says:

    On countless occasions I’ve witnessed the Republic recycling trucks leaking products across the countryside. Is there nothing that can be done about the design of the containers on the trucks? I find that hard to believe. Maybe making customers put recyclables in large biodegradable bags would help?

  6. HowlingCicada says:

    Littering fits the American Car Culture. Drivers zip by, almost anonymously, too fast to connect meaningfully with people and places around them. It becomes inevitable that they don’t care.

    People in the neighborhoods they drive through lose connections with each other in proportion to the amount of car traffic. No links this time, just search for “Donald Appleyard” — his ideas relate mostly to this paragraph.

    Walking and bicycling reverse the don’t-care effect.

  7. Scott Bruslind says:

    Thank you for your service picking up after the rest of us. Can you recommend your picker? I have a few from Harbor Freight- some better than others. The style I use from ODOT on Adopt-A-Highway events are pretty nice, but I think yours looks to be made of stouter material.

  8. Richard Vannice says:

    “It’s the Governments responsibility.”
    Who is the government? Is it not ‘THE PEOPLE”?
    The government is not an individual and therefore cannot perform any physical task, i.e. pickup garbage.
    1. Don’t litter.
    2. If you are walking or riding a bike stop and pick it up – home isn’t that far away. And it doesn’t cause you any pain.

  9. Bill McLagan says:

    13 years ago I started walking in Millersburg most every day. After a while I started picking up roadside trash. Did this for three years. Why? The old prayer says “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Figured there was no trash in heaven — therefore there should not be trash here.

    Now every quarter a group meets to clean up Old Salem Road and environs. I didn’t start that group — at least directly. Millersburg is better place for the effort.

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