Friday, September 11, 2009

Garbage Goes in the Can. Come ON People!

Litter. Have I ranted about litter here? Probably not.

So, here's the thing. In this day and age where we have (somewhat) intelligent conversations about environmental issues like water conservations, global climate change, declining fish stocks, deforestation, acid rain, light pollution, heavy metals, desertification and myriad other problems, why do I still find litter on the ground?

I don't mean gum wrappers and cigarette butts either. I mean full-on, deliberately tossed, "I don't give shit about shit" garbage on the ground. By way of example I was at the local Save-On-Foods on Sunday night. Save-On shares its parking lot with a McDonalds and other businesses. In the parking stall right next to me was a McD's bag and drink cup. There was a garbage can less than 10 feet away.

This was a large bag. It didn't fall out a car door unnoticed. How could it? I can't make any reasonable path to a conclusion where the owner of the bag didn't know it was on the ground. Someone sat in a parking stall, ate their crap from McDs and then threw the bag and cup out the window and drove away.

So, after picking up the bag & cup and throwing them in the garbage can I scanned the parking lot. I saw: two Tim Horton's cups, another McD's bag, an empty 750ml pop bottle and a cigarette pack. Needless to say I was late getting my groceries and had to use the store's bathroom to wash up.

I know that a few bad apples shouldn't spoil the bushel (or whatever) but I can't help but despair for a society that can't clean up after themselves. If we can't get to a universal, basic like "don't throw your crap on the ground", how are we supposed to engage people in larger discussions? I honestly thought we were past this; at least at a local, parking-lot type level.

But then maybe its all perspective. Maybe the trash in the parking lot is just part of the flotsam we seem to be comfortable with. After all, we don't seem really quick to do anything collective about the Pacific Ocean garbage dump. It may get cleaned up. However it will be a private contractor taking on the job rather than governments and the polluters that support them. And likely, that's how the suburbia parking lots, the downtown streets and few remaining green belts will get treated. Contractors will be hired to do clean up and as long as people can see their stuff simply disappear, they'll continue to refuse to take any responsibility.

I have in the past pointed out people's refuse to them with a friendly "Looks like you dropped something there" but I usually get a profanity-laced response. I once waited for the garbage tosser to walk from their car to the store then picked up their Tim's cup and Tim Bits box and wedged them under the windshield wiper. It was all gone when I left the store. I like to think of it as Guerrilla Community Based Social Marketing: Shame the person, build a better habit, educate and do it all without getting your face kicked in. It's an interesting challenge.

So, if you (you better not) find your tossed garbage wedged between your side mirror and door or under a wiper-blade, take the hint and throw your garbage where it belongs: neatly separated into the appropriate blue bin for paper, plastics and glass. If that's too hard, just throw the damn stuff out in a garbage can. I know that at least I feel better having made your life a little more difficult so that we can have a slightly cleaner place to live.

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