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.