Brent Antonson

How Is Littering Still A Thing?

Littering is something that happens everywhere. People, oddly looking like you and me, are just disposing of their garbage wherever they want.

Brent Antonson
Aug 21, 2022
5 min read
Do, Don't, Do, Don't, Do, Don't, Do, Don't, Do, Don't, Do, Don't, Do, Don't - Getty Image

How did we stay a society that litters? From dropping drive-thru leftovers out their car windows to dog poo tossed in bags on walking paths, people are litterbugs. It’s a head-scratcher that’s for sure. Somehow I learned in the 1980s, at the age of 11, that littering was no longer a social practice. It was taboo to litter.

Littering is the improper disposal of waste products. Littering can happen intentionally or unintentionally but both have environmental consequences. And it largely comes in the forms of food wrappers, plastic bottles, grocery bags, and building materials. From the seat of a car or the bed of a pickup, research showed nine million drivers (18%) threw litter from their cars in 2011.

Since Covid-19 began changing our lives and masks were mandatory across the world, people began tossing away used facemasks whenever they were no longer needed. I remember seeing my first discarded mask in a puddle outside a hospital, we're pathetic.

About half of these waste products are plastic - that reluctantly "helpful" byproduct of oil we detest so much. We're happy for plastic yet we'll demonstrate or riot against crude oil or fracking. How ironic is that when they're one and the same? And we can't be bothered to recycle. And then why people litter is of concern:

  • Laziness or carelessness
  • Lack of access to trash receptacles

I've noticed that in the last five years City garbage cans or those for our use at drive-thrus or gas stations are either missing, overflowing, or people just missed their objectives and it falls on the ground. If you go to France, garbage cans are everywhere and the streets are clean. In London, garbage cans were the places the IRA hid bombs so there are few garbage cans and there is litter to prove it.

The City ought to have thought that removing one garbage can from a route would undoubtedly mean the next one was used twice as often by good people, or the garbage manifested itself as litter in between them. For the sake of the good people, the garbage cans are used to capacity and all other waste falls by the way and the wind.

In 1989 my friends and I would spend our Friday nights in a field in Alberta bathed in the Northern lights and philosophizing to the tune of cheap beer and cigarettes. On Earth Day we made a pact that we would, short of our empties (which had value and were picked up by vagrants), never litter again. It may seem an odd thing for a 20-year-old to think through with his buddies, but I guess we were caught up was in the spirits of both beer and Earth Day.

Eight million tons of litter enter the ocean every day – most is plastic. conserve-energy-future.com

To this day I haven’t intentionally littered. The odd napkin or page of writing has gone with the wind. And accidentally little things may have fallen off me or my car.(and I have a huge carbon footprint because I love driving but that aside...)

I’ve never betrayed the Earth or the pact we made. It boggles my mind how people can jettison their trash out their car windows, as if it was out of sight and therefore out of mind. If I yell at someone littering, they ask me if I think I'm a cop. Therefore, I want to be deputized so I can arrest these people with a Taser. The rest of the criminal world can go on existing, I want the power to force people to clean up after themselves. I admit the Taser is for my own amusement.

The amount of trash that collects when the winds subside, is astronomical. Tons of our materialistic shit ends up blowing somewhere it ought not to be. I remember seeing a guy throw a newspaper up and into the wind. It blew apart into 50 pages of newsprint. I see NO DUMPING signs around scrubland filled with mattresses, sofas, and refrigerators.

At a significant cost, these have to be disposed of by the City. There is also waste from buildings, gyprock and siding, plywood, and half-sawn 2-by-4s. And hazardous wastes get dumped too, engine oil, paint, and asbestos. Who are these people? Lazy or just trying to save a buck?

In addition to water and soil pollution, litter can also pollute the air. Researchers estimate that more than 40% of the world's litter is burned in the open air, which can release toxic emissions. These emissions can cause respiratory issues, other health problems, and even be a starting base for acid rain.

Leave nothing but footprints. Litter nothing but time.                                                 — conserve-energy-future.com

The costs of taking something in distance, costs, and time, to the dump, is outweighed by the availability of somewhere close and free to dump it. Many cities will even come and pick up material from your home in order to keep it from being dumped illegally. Huge swathes of land are covered in our collective waste.

If you litter, that is like you shitting in the street. It should be a huge embarrassment to litter but litterbugs have no collective sense of it in modern terms - they're apes in hoodies and track pants. They simply have no need for something and therefore they drop it out the nearest window, or wherever they are. I'm talking dog poo bags. How can you be a responsible pet owner but not a responsible human being?

The yellow HAZ-MAT boxes for needle disposal are everywhere. But the discarded needle system isn't working, as evidenced by the fact that on a daily basis, nearly 1000 discarded needles are collected off the ground in many of the city's 230 parks and other areas by public workers. Does anyone see we have a large drug problem when bathrooms at McDonald's have SHARP containers?

And all this brings me to Mt. Everest, where nature lovers hike up the world's tallest mountain, not practicing what they preach. They do not carry in/carry out. In fact last year the Nepali government cleared 11 tons of trash off of Everest; in addition to a deposit initiative launched in 2014, which refunds a climbers' required $4,000 deposit when they return with their 18 pounds of generated garbage.

We have to find a way to teach this small percentage of those inconsiderate who are ruining views for the rest of us. And if not us then for the cleanliness of God’s green earth. I think everyone who agrees with this message should be deputized and given a Taser. It may be the only way some people learn.

OF RUSSIA: A Year Inside

Brent (Brant is the Russian version) Antonson has seen a Russia few foreigners have. Indeed, few Russians. This young Canadian ventured to Voronezh, eleven hours south of Moscow by train, to spend a year inside a country torn by strife, fresh into a new century, and struggling with the clash between history and future. Tasked with teaching English to students at one university, and then a second, his story is riddled with romance and deception, and punctuated with near disaster and disappointment. Antonson's candor and insights set Russia on the edge of failure and achievement – much like the students he educated, filled with a dash of hope and a lump of fear. His wit did as much to get him in trouble as it did to keep him out of it.

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