The combined scent of insect repellent, sun screen and munitions is especially aromatic at 12:30 in the morning. There I stood – a place where minutes earlier thousands had observed bright lights ruling the skies synchronized to modern melodies and broadcast throughout our fair city during an event called Celebrate Freedom – a community outreach sponsored by Harvest Church. The hanging smoke left an eerie scene as the portable light poles broadcast luminance throughout the breadth of the park.
Fast forward a few hours of abhorrent sleep and now I’m back at the park; full day-light and ready to put this event to rest. Gathered with a handful of post-event volunteers, we set out with trash bags to pick up the remains left by the crowd the day before. I wondered what was going through the mind of the metal detector jockey watching me gather scattered debris as I watched her intently searching for anything as slight as a coin bearing the image of Abraham Lincoln.
Take a long look at this picture. Imagine, if you can, how this water bottle was forced into this shape. Imagine the energy it took to manipulate the molecules in this plastic for it to remain in this condition long after the handler’s will was exacted upon it. Now, imagine where I found this bottle; thoughtlessly discarded thirty-feet from a red recycle bin and forty-feet from a faithful black trash can.
All this trash picking has left me thinking about the human condition. Why do people litter? Are people really that lazy? Is it accidental? Or do they just not care? My friend Duffy offers the infractors the benefit of thinking it’s mostly accidental. Maybe; because 94% of people polled think that littering is an important environmental issue.
We live in a plastic convenience culture; virtually every human being on this planet uses plastic materials directly and indirectly every single day. Our children begin life on earth by using some 210 milion pounds of plastic diaper liners each year. We give them plastic milk bottles, plastic toys, and buy their food in plastic jars, paying with plastic credit/debit cards.
Every year we eat and drink from some thirty-four billion newly manufactured bottles and containers. We patronize fast food restaurants and buy products that consume another fourteen billion pounds of plastic. In total, our Nation produces an estimated sixty billion tons of plastic material every year. Each of us, on average, uses 190 pounds of plastic annually: bottled water, fast food packaging, furniture, syringes, computers and CD’s, DVD’s, packing materials, garbage bags and so much more.
When you consider that this plastic does not biodegrade and remains in our ecosystems permanently, we are looking at an incredibly high volume of accumulated plastic trash that has been building up since the 1950’s.
The truth is, we all know about the problem. Now its time to act on it. But if you already do have proper and responsible waste disposal habits, remember that you can make a difference by encouraging others to follow your example. When we dispose of our garbage properly, instead of polluting our environment, it does more than just help keep our locale neat and tidy – it makes you feel like you’re making a difference.