A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

You can ignore litter only so long

Written June 11th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
There was a trash can in the park across  the street, it turned out.

There was a trash can in the park across the street, it turned out.

Eight or nine years ago, or maybe ten, the publisher of the Democrat-Herald and I were walking from the newspaper office to a meeting downtown when, there on the sidewalk, lay a crumpled-up piece of paper. I stepped over it but Martha Wells stooped down, gingerly picked it up and then, without a word, carried it to the next corner and dropped it in the trash can there. If we all did likewise, and more often, this would be a cleaner town.

I never forgot that little sidewalk scene. And now and then, I’ve tried to follow Martha’s example of that long-ago day. But I have to tell you, it would be easier if trash cans were more readily available and more strategically placed. Nobody is going to pick up and dispose of a bit of stray litter, even just now and then, if it means having to carry the thing for who knows how far before there’s a chance to get rid of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I’m on a ride around town and there’s a mess of plastic bags and what looks like discarded newspaper scattered in the weeds along Salem Avenue. I see the mess, ignore it and ride on. A couple of days later I’m going by there again, testing an old road bike after a skilled mechanic at Bike ‘N’ Hike tuned it up. I see the junk is still there, exactly in the same place. “Oh hell, I guess nobody’s going to clean that up.”

I find a wall to lean the bike against, go clicking down the sidewalk in my cleats, and with a gloved hand collect the plastic and the papers.

Now what? No trash can in sight. But I figure there must be one at the boat house at nearby Waverly Lake. I wobble over there on the bike with an armful of refuse and one hand on the handlebar, and sure enough, a trash can there is.

End of story, such that it is. But as I say, it would be easier to do this more often if trash cans were available at every other corner or in every other block. (hh)

4 responses to “You can ignore litter only so long”

  1. Dale says:

    Thank you HH.
    I try to do the same.

  2. hj.anony1 says:

    We aMEricans offer endless displays of sloth. Good on you HH and all those who pick up after others!

    More garbage receptacles are a good idea but what about cost of materials and labor to keep clean? Nobody wants to pay more for services or at least they complain endlessly about additional fees and/or taxes.

    • Shawn Dawson says:

      The cost for more trash cans in the city, and the cost to the city for having them collected is worth the cost to the city’s taxpayers.

      I don’t know if there are more or fewer trash cans than when I grew up — perhaps they have just moved. When I was a teenager, I know there was a city trash can on the corner next to my house, in a residential neighborhood, and that the city emptied it. They were not just near the downtown area, near parks, etc. They were strategically located throughout the city, which encouraged just the type of “set it, pick it up, throw it away” community service Hasso mentions.

      The trash can is not there today, and has not been there for a few decades. This sounds simple, but could we try this old idea again? Could we put hundreds of new trash cans throughout the city and encourage folks to properly dispose of litter?


  3. Max stalnaker says:

    I see some complaints about littering near rural streams. These locations might be public or private. There is a common claim locally that these people are “not Scio”. And in fact, some evidence points to West Albany, among other places.

    Now it happens that there are many laws and many levels of punishment. Some like littering dropping a gum wrapper in front of the court house might get a ticket but not be criminal. It happens that doing this near a river may be criminal and good for free room and board.

    It seems that property owners are frustrated by lack of penalties for littering near streams. The litter in your photograph might in fact be close enough to the river to be worth a year in the new county jail. Is it?


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