Litter Lady, Trash Tramp, Garbage Gal

City life is litter blowing around, plastic bags hanging in trees, smashed beer cans, and even dryer sheets in the grass.  It is everywhere.

I used to think that much of the trash was blown out of the backs of trucks or pushed out of too full trashcans.  No more. I know that people deliberately throw their trash out of their cars or drop it as they are walking.

With the plentiful number of trashcans in downtown Cleveland, you wouldn’t expect to see so much litter around. It just seems that, no matter how many collection spots there are, they are never convenient enough for people who are too lazy to walk half a block.

We have a bus stop on each side of the street at our corner. There are no trashcans there. While people wait for the bus, they eat and drink. They leave their trash behind.  Half a block away is a big dumpster we all use, but they might miss their bus.

A block and a half from us is a woman’s shelter. They are served food inside on Styrofoam plates, cups and plastic forks. They bring their food outside and leave all their trash with whatever food they don’t want to eat sitting in the grass, bushes or sidewalks.

Fast food places serve all their food in an overabundance of paper products. When people are done eating, the wrappers are stuffed back in the bag and thrown out the car window.  Students at CSU eat meals on their way from work to their classes and the debris ends up on the curb.

I’ve seen everything from baby binkies, to gloves and flip flops, to birthday ribbons and grade cards. There are plenty of parking tickets, RTA stubs, and flyers for everything from extolling the virtues of AIDS testing, to reading the Bible, to students getting extra cash for the holidays.  Once I saw a good pair of hiking boots sitting on a curb. They were there three days later minus the laces. I even picked up a love letter one day.

In the two years I’ve been walking to the Rec Center and Playhouse Square, I have never actually seen anyone throw trash down at the curb or into the bushes.  (Actually, some people stick their cans and cups at waist level in fences and bushes. How thoughtful).  It is almost like Pig Pen. People must sweat trash out of their pores as they mosey on the sidewalks or else they are very covert when they drop their trash so not even I notice.

I routinely pick up at least one plastic bag of trash going to and from the gym 3 times a week.

It’s strange the reactions of people passing me. Mostly they avert their eyes but I know they see me. A few people say “Thank you” or “Let me help you.” Some people give me the look you see when people view a bag lady or mental patient. I’m sure they think only a crazy person would pick up an empty chip bag.

Once, when complimented for doing a nice thing, I mentioned to the young lady “anyone can do it.” But I wonder why “anyone” doesn’t do it.

Despite all that, I know it takes me longer to get from point A to point B if I stop to do my community service. Students and faculty probably don’t have that time.

I know I am not the only responsible person because glass or pizza boxes I’ve noticed as I drive by are gone the next day. But I do think that there are a lot of people who just don’t see the litter or, if they see it, think they can’t pick it up because it’s either dirty or someone else’s problem.

Maybe I sound self-righteous because I want to make my little corner of the world a better place. Actually, I am selfish. I do it only for myself. I like to walk places that look well cared for. I figure I’ve done enough in my lifetime to hamper and hurt the earth and this is my small way of paying back. And maybe, just maybe, my good example will influence someone else.


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2 responses to “Litter Lady, Trash Tramp, Garbage Gal”

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  1. Vicky says:

    Hmm, I have to think the fact that there are no trash cans at the bus stops is key. If the city doesn’t make on-the-street trash disposal reasonably convenient–and bus stop trash cans are a pretty basic measure of that — it is harder to fault people for their littering.

    • Karen says:

      Your are right to a degree. I know there are some corners that have THREE trash cans and many corners, like mine, with none. But there can never be enough for people who just won’t carry their trash to the next corner.