Saturday, April 4, 2009

I've been picking up a lot of bad habits this month...

Thank God I don't live on Mission Hill right now. When I was in college and living in Jamaica Plain, I used to walk to MassArt along Huntington Avenue and it never ceased to amaze/disgust me how much litter covered the street in that area. Really? I mean, people really think that it's ok to just throw their trash on the ground? I can't even imagine eating fast food and then throwing my trash out the window, but people do it all the time! Why! Apparently, they've never heard of the trash vortex in the Pacific Ocean, or even worse, they have and they just don't care. Why don't people care? It's beyond me...

My ranting aside, I've actually been enjoying April's challenge much more than I thought I would. At first I felt kind of uncomfortable being seen walking around with a bunch of garbage in my hands, but pretty quickly I stopped caring. I haven't experienced any negative comments or stares, and it seems like people are more curious than anything else (although no one has stopped me to ask what I'm doing yet).

What's been really interesting is finding patterns in the litter that I pick up. The biggest conclusion I've drawn is that people with a bad habit, i.e. littering, usually have a bunch of other bad habits to go along with it. Honestly, 90% of that trash that I've found falls into the category of "Addictive Trash": empty cigarette cartons, vodka bottles, scratch tickets, and Dunkin Donuts cups. What's I've seen the most of though is cigarette butts. Somehow, there's a common misconception that tossing your cigarette butt on the ground isn't littering, but in reality, they aren't biodegradable, and even worse, two billion are thrown on the ground every day. I've already established that I'm not picking them up this month. I'd never make it anywhere on time if I stopped along the way for every one I found.

Soon I'm going to post about DeLitter Bugs, a project that Amanda and I came up with a few months ago. We're still hammering out the details so I want to wait to post until we've really figure it out. Stay tuned!


  1. I was on a whale watch a couple of summers ago, and the tour guide told us about a red-tailed hawk they found dead, and when they autopsied the poor guy, he had about 40 cigarette butts in his belly. He thought the butts were food and ate a ton of them. Since he couldn't digest them, they sat in his stomach and he thought he was full, so he starved to death.

  2. This makes me wonder... who's picking up the trash? I mean I realize there are public works departments, street cleaners etc. But is there a typical M.O. for dealing with trash in urban areas. Is there a department within public works that is tasked with cleaning up trash every day? Does it just blow around indefinitely until it ends up in a river or body of water?

    If there are efforts, how much does it cost tax payers?

  3. I saw a group of men in blue jackets sweeping up trash in Copley Square the other day. The jackets said "Project Place" on the front and "Clean Corners, Bright Hopes" on the back.

    Here's the website:

  4. Tim,

    Obviously it depends where you are whether or not someone is picking up trash. Here in DC, there are employees paid to cleanup around the metro stops. But honestly, most are just pushing trash around and listening to their ipods. Actually we saw some of this on Nantucket with the town "employees" who pick up random cans and mow water grass they deem appropriate. It's a good question you ask. Someone must be doing the cleaning, but you rarely see it.

    In Argentina, the city cleaned itself during the early morning. People threw their garbage directly into the street during the day. There was dog shit everywhere as no one cleaned up after their pets. But every night, crews would come collect the trash, and shop owners were taxed with the responsibility of cleaning the sidewalks in front of their shops. The shit and grime would wash into drains. The craziest thing I saw there was a protest over a paper mill between Argentina and Uruguay. For about a week, businesses were dumping all there shredded paper out of their windows. I have no idea how that all got cleaned up.