Littering. It is safe to say that this is a problem that has been around a long time.
Do you think 100 years ago (1920) that littering was a problem? Then again let’s say 200 years ago (1820), did communities have trouble with folks who litter? It is hard to say but I think it is safe to say that this is a problem that has been around a long time. Somehow, I think that my parents and my grandparents were more careful about litter. My ancestors were mainly farmers who were taught to use everything and packaging was different back then. A food item that was sold in a metal box was often saved to be used for something else. Today we live in a disposable society where everything that does not have a purpose is thrown in the landfill, even with increased efforts to recycle. Of course, the 1960’s (and probably before that decade) brought about movements to protect the environment. It was all about clean air, clean water and a cleaner planet. However, driving around Surry County, I often think there are many people that did not get that memo and somehow feel compelled to throw their trash out the car window.
Ruins a perfectly good car ride!
Picture this for a moment; you are driving down one of our great two-lane roads in Surry County; the sun is shining and the sky is a great Carolina blue. Your car radio is blasting some great music and you are enjoying the ride. That all ends suddenly when you travel past an intersection and see trash thrown off the side of the road. This will ruin a perfectly good car ride. It makes me think what in the world would compel some dummy to take his fast food trash, cup, beer bottle or cardboard box and fling it out the car window. I often think to myself maybe there is a reason but honestly, I cannot think of one. Not one.
If my blue-collar Dad ever witnessed me littering, I would have been in serious trouble.
My parents were hard working people and did not have degrees from Harvard or Yale. In fact, because of World War 2, my father did not even complete high school. I grew up in the sixties and seventies and if my blue-collar Dad ever witnessed me littering, I would have been in serious trouble. Here is my shout out to all of you parents out there. Talk to your kids about littering. Let them know that it is against the law, it is ugly and it paints a terrible picture for those who travel our roads every day. How about all of the tourists that come to our region? They come here to see the sights, spend money and enjoy our community. The message that litter sends is that people who live here do not take care of their community.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, here are a few stats on litter:
· NCDOT spent over $15 million in 2015 to remove litter from our roads.
· Litter reduces property values.
· Tourism declines when vistas are spoiled by litter
· Trucks with unsecured loads cause a great deal of the litter
· One third of current litter is related to cigarette products
· Heavily littered neighborhoods have more crime.
It is not ok. Let’s teach our children to respect the land and dispose of trash properly.
I have a theory about those who litter (and you know who you are). The actions we take as adults are often a product of how we were raised. If our parents or grandparents thought it was ok to litter, then it must be ok. The fact is that it is not ok. Let’s teach our children to respect the land and dispose of trash properly.
A few years ago, my family and I lived on a dead-end road in Surry County. I could never figure out why some people (residents and non-residents) would come down our road and throw their trash out the window. I guess they did it because they could not be seen as easily as on a main road. It got so bad that my wife would get a bag and go collect as much of it as she could. One day I noticed fast food trash thrown by the side of the road. Part of the mess were two kid’s meal packages. I can just hear the conversation to those kids, “Johnny, give Dad your trash and I will pitch it put the window.” We can only hope that the kid would think, “Dad, why did you do that? Trash goes in the trash can!” We can only hope.
“Give a Hoot. Don’t Pollute!”
So, there is my two cents on litter. Let’s think about litter and what damage it causes. Keep a grocery bag or box in your car for trash and empty it when you need to. Teach your children or grandchildren not to litter. Those who lived in the 1970’s may remember a character called Woodsy Owl. His motto was “Give a Hoot. Don’t Pollute!”
Written by: Randy Collins, Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce President & CEO
Published in The Mount Airy News Sunday, August 23, 2020