Taking trash: an older editorial of mine from Coast Reporter

MAY 20, 2011

ALLIE NICHOL/STAFF WRITER
There has been a lot of trash talk around the office this past week. Not the kind where slurs are made behind people’s backs, of course, but rather talk about the kind of trash people leave when they don’t clean up after themselves.

Last week I wrote a story on illegal dumping in our woods and the new mapping system implemented by the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD). I thought it would be interesting to do some exploring to see what kind of garbage I could find. Using the SCRD’s system, I drove out to a few different areas to photograph various items sadly left to rot outside.

Mattresses, tires and food wrappers were strewn in various places. My heart sunk when I drove to what seemed like a pristine area and found a few cans of Lucky lager sitting on a tree stump, as if those who left the cans were proud to display them there.

I was pleased to read my boss’ editorial last week, particularly when he said it’s shocking to see that some people are so disrespectful of our environment. But what really got me wondering is where the disrespectful behaviour comes from.

I was taught to clean up after myself. Even before recycling became a daily and integral part of life, littering was a no-no. Road trips, picnics, even a walk to the corner store to get a treat — we always bundled up our litter and put it in a garbage bin. If a bin wasn’t handy, we held on to our garbage until we found one.

I will never forget being yelled at by my grandmother for dropping an ice cream wrapper as a kid. “Pick up after yourself. You want the birds to eat that? Don’t be lazy,” she bellowed at me, as I stood mortified in front of my friends at the playground. “You’re not the only one in the world here, young lady!’’

I picked up the sticky wrapper and walked, head held in shame, to the nearby garbage bin, having learned a lesson that has forever stuck with me. Upon my return, my grandmother informed me I was lucky she didn’t use her wooden spoon anymore.

Fast forward to just last week, and there I stood, staring at those two empty beer cans on the tree stump, wondering if the people who left them were just lazy. Looking at the other forms of garbage, though, such as the mattresses and tires, proved my wonder to be unsubstantiated. Those items were carted there purposely. People may be too lazy (or cheap) to go to the dump, but they take no issue with trekking to the woods to dispose of their rubbish.

We’re all guilty of dropping a piece of litter here or there or maybe not sorting our recycling as well as we should, but leaving a tire to rot in the woods is another matter. That kind of behaviour is something I am unable to comprehend. I can’t even understand why it’s a challenge for people to take their empty cans with them. Those cans look much better in a recycling bin than on a tree stump.

Is it a sense of entitlement? Maybe people just don’t know better. It’s hard to say. What is common sense to one person is rubbish to another (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

I urge everyone to think twice before littering or dumping any kind of garbage in the woods. Big or small, it hurts us all, including the birds my grandmother cared so greatly for.

If she were still here and saw someone throw a tire in the woods, I do not doubt she would make good on her threat to use the dreaded wooden spoon.

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