Litter pick-up programs could be eliminated if people policed themselves

All around my hometown of Crystal City you can find signs with an iconic little insect pleading with everyone who passes, “Don’t be a litterbug. Help keep your community clean.”

If only it were that easy. Actually it is as simple as that. If people heeded the message and disposed of their waste properly, there wouldn’t be a need for adopt-a-highway projects or the expensive proposition of spending highway funds on roadway clean-up rather than repairs.

The upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday is designated as a day of service: “Make it a day on rather than a day off.” It’s just about the least I can do, but for the past several years I have chosen the weekend as an opportunity to collect trash along the road to my house. Unfortunately there is always more trash than I can fit into a couple of garbage bags.

Foam cups, plastic bags, aluminum cans, and all manner of trash is easy to find on the winter landscape. It would make a great New Year’s resolution for everyone to commit to a greater degree of respect for the environment.

River litter removal efforts and roadside pick-ups find an endless supply of dumped debris. Those efforts are heroic, but how nice would it be for them to become unnecessary if people just policed themselves.

Many states have package deposit programs of five to 10 cents per bottle or can to force the hands of consumers to reduce, reuse, return and recycle. The rationale against that sort of government-mandated waste management is that citizens don’t need Big Brother to force good behavior.

The evidence is contrary to that belief, but chances for such a system to be adopted in Missouri are zero. States like Iowa that have managed bottle and can returns for decades are practically litterless in comparison to our home state.

The latest refrain against the overwhelming evidence of climate change is that there isn’t proof that rising global average temperatures are caused by humans. I find that stance hard to believe, but litter and the general trashing of the planet can be blamed on nothing other than us.

It is hard to even dream, but it would be nice if future service projects could focus on helping people in need rather than picking up someone else’s trash.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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