Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Items collected Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I wasn't in a position to pick up much trash today, and couldn't pick up anything that was dirty. I picked up only two items.

Today's recyclable:
  • 1 plastic bottle (Pepsi)
Today's reusable:
  • 1 plastic carrier bag, in excellent condition
The plastic carrier bag came from the same store that yesterday's bag came from. Both bags were found within a block of the store, and were in such clean condition that I have to believe they had been discarded only a short time before I found them. Many people who shop there buy just a single item of snack food and consume it as soon as they get outside, and I suspect that most of the bags I find were tossed aside by such people.

What I can't understand is why the store owner doesn't instruct cashiers to ask customers, "Would you like a bag?" instead of automatically bagging every purchase. Whether or not the owner cares about the environment, reducing the number of bags given out would benefit the store's bottom line. I can understand making bags available to customers buying multiple items, as the availability of bags encourages customers to buy more, but there doesn't seem to be any point to a bag when the customer is buying a single item for immediate consumption.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recyclables and reusables found Monday, September 29, 2008

Today's recyclables:
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Aquafina water, 1 Big Burst Blue Raspberry Drink, 1 Brut Splash-on Lotion)
  • 2 glass bottles (1 Bacardi Mojito, 1 Corona beer)
Today's reusables:
  • 1 plastic carrier bag, in excellent condition
  • 2 black pens
It isn't often that I derive any benefit from picking up other people's discarded items. There's no deposit on recyclables here, so I can't make any money by picking up bottles and cans. Picking up pens, on the other hand, saves me from buying my own, so it feels good when I find one. Today was unusual in that I found two pens, of different brands and in different locations, after several months of not finding any. They were both very dirty, but I was able to brush the dirt off them easily and found that they both write well.

Now I want to talk about something I didn't pick up. Be warned that the rest of this blog entry concerns a truly disgusting topic, so readers with sensitive stomachs may prefer to stop reading at this point.

Over the last few months, I've found a number of Diet Pepsi bottles containing urine. I assume they were produced by a driver who couldn't find a rest room. We definitely suffer from a shortage of rest rooms around here, and personally I think that urinating into a bottle is a reasonable way of dealing with the urge to go. However, tossing one's bottle out the window is obviously not okay.

When I decided to start this blog, my inclination was to publish it under my actual name. I decided to use a pseudonym mostly because I knew that sooner or later I'd get to talking about disgusting recyclables like urine bottles, and I fear that my professional standing would suffer if word got around that I had ever handled a stranger's urine bottle. And obviously I must have handled at least one for my nose to have had the chance to identify the vile contents.

Today, there was a urine bottle by the side of the road, and I walked straight past it. I was feeling kind of nauseous already after dealing with a dead animal earlier in the morning, and the last thing I wanted to deal with was someone else's urine. But I feel like I should have dealt with it. And I feel like I should deal with it if it's still there the next time I walk on that street. And let's face it, it will still be there, because no one else in the neighborhood goes around picking up trash.

Still, my stomach churns. I'm not entirely sure why. I don't flinch at changing a diaper, so why react so negatively to uncapping a bottle, pouring the contents onto the grass, and doing a quick rinse? I wouldn't come into any direct contact with the urine, and even if I did, urine is mostly sterile. I'd be interested to know what other folks do when they encounter urine bottles while out collecting trash.

As stomach-churning as urine bottles may be, one point in their favor is that they don't smell nearly as bad as the Brut bottle I picked up earlier. The bottle wasn't sealed properly, and the last few drops leaked out onto my hands when I picked it up. The odor has clung to my hands through multiple washings, and it's overpowering. The only thing I can conclude about men who choose to wear Brut is that their noses don't work!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recyclables found Sunday, September 28, 2008

Today's collection consisted of:
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 Dean & Deluca water, 1 Blueberry Pomegranate Vita Rain)
  • 1 aluminum can (Yuengling lager)
  • 1 glass bottle (Bacardi rum)
I wish there was an easy way to remove the metal from around the neck of the rum bottle. I usually use the pointy end of an old nail file to tear metal bands off bottles, but keep thinking there must be a better way.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recyclables found Friday, September 26, 2008

On Friday, I picked up three bottles, all plastic. One was a Sprite bottle, one was a Deer Park Eco-Shape bottle, and one was a roadkilled bottle that had too much dirt on it for its brand name to be readily readable. It's only when I scrubbed the third bottle with an old toothbrush that I did a double take. My camera isn't very good, but here's a photo of it.

I also took close-up pictures of the left and right sides of the label. However, the photos aren't very clear, so here's a description of what they show. The bottle has the seal of the United States Senate on it. To the left of the seal is "WWW.SENATERESTAURANTS.GOV", and to the right of the seal is "Designed & distributed by DrinkMore Custom Water 1-877-YourWater www.DMCWater.com 24 fluid ounces Ultrapurified Water".

This is the closest I've ever come to finding a discarded recyclable that could be traced back to the person who littered with it. Unfortunately, however, there's no way to tell which senator, senate staffer, or lobbyist tossed the bottle on the road. I wish there was, because I'd love to be able to go to the appropriate senator's office and tell them how I feel about littering. And while we're at it, Mr./Ms. Senator, why the heck do the senate restaurants even provide bottled water? Can't you drink from reusable cups?

Mostly, I just wish I could get the story behind how the bottle came to be on my street. I'm guessing that someone who isn't actually a senator took it from a senate restaurant as a trophy to show friends and family, but if that's the case, why didn't they hold onto it instead of tossing it in the street?

Anyway, in summary, Friday's collection consisted of:
  • 3 plastic bottles (1 Sprite, 1 Deer Park Eco-Shape water, 1 United States Senate water)

What this blog is about

When normal people go for a walk, they look all around them, and notice trees, clouds, and billboards. I'm not normal. I keep my gaze firmly on the ground, and mostly what I notice is all the trash that's strewn around .

I used to make occasional efforts to remove the trash I found, but didn't feel terribly motivated. Then I read about how much energy it takes to produce aluminum from bauxite ore. The article I read mentioned that obtaining aluminum by recycling aluminum cans is much more efficient than processing bauxite ore. That day, I decided to start picking up all the aluminum cans I saw on the ground and taking them home for recycling. I also began picking up glass bottles.

For a while, I also picked up trash, but it became overwhelming to stop a dozen times per block to pick up trash, and I got so frustrated that I soon stopped picking up anything. I then made a conscious decision to ignore regular trash and pick up only the items that were recyclable.

At first, plastic bottles fell into the category of trash, but now my municipality recycles (or rather downcycles) plastic bottles, so now I pick them up. There are a staggering number of them. What I find ironic is how many of them are "Eco-Shape" bottles, designed by Deer Park "to be easier on the environment".

I don't pick up each and every recyclable bottle or can I come across. I no longer pick up any aluminum cans that once contained sugary beverages, because I got sick of dealing with the ants and wasps that had taken up residence inside them. And sometimes I don't pick up any recyclables at all because I'm en route to the grocery store and want to save space in my bags for the groceries I'll be buying. Some days, I pick up water bottles but don't pick up beer bottles or cans because I'm on my way to meet someone and don't want to arrive carrying bags that smell like stale beer. Still, I usually pick up at least 10 beverage containers per week, and sometimes pick up many more.

In addition to recyclables, I pick up a number of reusable items, mostly plastic carrier bags suitable for use as trash bags. I haven't accepted carrier bags in stores for many years, but find so many discarded bags that I never need to purchase trash bags. I also don't need to buy pens, due to the number I find on the ground. Occasionally, I find something unusual, like a roll of packing tape. With the exception of plastic bags, I leave most items where I see them in the hope their rightful owners will come back for them, but pick up things that appear to have been permanently abandoned.

As might be expected, what I do is usually pretty boring. There's nothing glamorous about picking up bottles and cans, scrubbing them off with an old toothbrush, and tossing them in a recycling bin. However, after picking up thousands of recyclable items, I've become fascinated by the variation in what I find. Why is it that one week I find dozens of Budweiser cans, then the next week there are none? Does the quantity of Budweiser consumed correlate with whether there's a big football game on TV, perhaps? Not possessing an iPod to keep my mind busy while I walk along, this type of question keeps running through my brain.

Clearly, I have no life. Yet, just as clearly, I'm not alone, because I have friends who get into the game of speculating on what recyclables I'll find next. This blog is for them, and anyone else interested in what trash ends up on the ground. I'll probably also comment on other environmental issues from time to time, but this blog is primarily about the recyclables and reusables I find lying around.