NEWS BLOG: Son of a litterbug

BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

As I was driving my mother south toward the Pennsylvania border last week to visit her brother, she did something that stunned me. She reached down and grabbed a handful of trash – a paper cup, used tissues, and some candy wrappers – that had gathered at her feet. Then she rolled down the passenger window and flung it out.

A kaleidoscope of garbage appeared in the rear-view mirror.

I shot her one of those “I can’t believe you did that” looks because my near 80- year-old mother has always supported efforts to protect the environment and endangered animals.

Doesn’t that begin with not littering?

Public service campaigns against littering began in the 1950’s, and by the 1970’s,

“Don’t be a litterbug” had become a moral response to a national disgrace. The “Keep America Beautiful” ad campaign was enormously successful in changing public attitudes about littering. To be seen littering was to be déclassé.

But the campaign drew criticism after it was made public that the iconic “Crying Indian” ad featured an actor who wasn’t a Native American. Iron Eyes Cody was actually an Italian actor. The revelation seemed to weaken the campaign.

Concerns about litter today, judging from our roadways and intersections, must seem quaint. Still, the research on littering is interesting. For instance, 51 billion pieces of litter land on US roadways yearly, and annual cleanup costs for litter nationally top $11 billion. People are more likely to throw litter on top of other litter rather than spoil a clean area. And younger people, especially those who drive and consume fast food, are among the country’s worst littering offenders.

And according to studies by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources,

a plastic jug takes 1 million years to decompose. An aluminum can will take 200 years, and a paper bag will take a month.

My mother didn’t see the irony of her Nature Valley granola bar wrapper decomposing in a valley for the next 45 years, but she took the teasing well.

“You busted me,” she said.

One comment

  1. My mother didn’t see the irony of her Nature Valley granola bar wrapper decomposing in a valley for the next 45 years, but she took the teasing well. “You busted me,” she said.

    Personally I think that had I seen someone gather up a handful of trash and start to roll down the car window I would have had the foresight to figure out what was going to happen next and would have told the miscreant to stop. And had I been unable to stop them, 80 years old or not, my response would have been a bit stronger than a “teasing”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: