You will know them by the garbage they leave
The other day, while making my daily rounds at Putah Creek, I found the remains of a beer party someone had neglected to clean up. I run into this kind of thing pretty often, but from the sheer number of beer cans and bottles, this must have been a hell of a party. I looked around, but there was nobody else there, so I started picking up the mess that eventually would fill up the back of my truck.
I don’t know where this sort of behavior comes from, but I have to imagine it comes from the home. Children learn about alcohol in the home from their parents. They learn how to drink as well as how not to drink. It’s nothing new, because garbage has been dumped into the creek for a hundred years or so. It lays there at the bottom of the creek, bubbling and festering unless it is cleaned up.
During the last couple of phases of the Putah Creek Restoration Project, I tried to volunteer to help as often as I could, so I can attest to the amount of garbage we hauled out of it in now what is the City of Winters Nature Park. Directly under the old bridge was a hot spot for just about every kind of garbage there is. You name it and we found it under the bridge. People seem to think it’s a good spot to dump their old appliances like washers and dryers.
I have seen everything from an old piano to entire cars. There have been bags full of dead animals that someone had dumped after taking what they wanted from them. There were old bicycles and wheel chairs and even a few old gas engines from some sort of old machine the farmers no longer needed. I’ll bet we’ve picked up 500 old car batteries and at least that many old tires. I guess it will never end, but I can’t wait to get at the pile of garbage that I know is at the bottom of the last phase of work at the park.
The majority of types of garbage are beer cans and bottles. They seem to be everywhere in the park. This weekend’s load of bottles and cans made me wonder just how many are dumped every day in the good old US. Get ready for this, because any normal person will be shocked.
Americans waste (landfill, litter, and incinerate) about 425 beverage containers per capita per year, twice as many as we recycle. An average of 975 beer cans and bottles are tossed per mile of road annually in the US. I’m sure you have all heard of the plastic islands in both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Most of these were dumped in our rivers and creeks and eventually worked their way to the islands in the oceans.
Beer cans are lined with epoxy that contains biphenyl A (BPA), a chemical that keeps foods from reacting to aluminum, but that has also become associated with a range of ailments, including cancer, reproductive trouble and irregular brain development in kids. The damage to fish and wildlife is about to reach a critical stage. Everything we do affects the rest of the Earth. If we dump our garbage on the Earth, what does it become?
Sure we have our air conditioned homes with our TVs so we don’t have to look at what is happening around us. We have our vacations so we can go to where they pay people to keep everything clean and dandy. Now, if you think about it, what would happen if someone took away your TVs, vacations and air conditioning? Geez, that would be devastating!
No, think about what would happen if the beautiful leaves, fish and animals went away and never came back. Losing your AC, TVs and vacations would seem insignificant after that, wouldn’t it? The day we realize the leaves are never coming back will pretty much be the end of everything we know.
Please take the time to think about what you are doing the next time you finish a beer or soda. I’m getting much too old to pick them all up.