Viewpoint

I pick up 1,100 lbs. of litter a year, just on my short daily walk

Some of the litter Dave Bradley has picked up. He says he picks up 3 pounds of trash, on average, every day on his same walking route.
Some of the litter Dave Bradley has picked up. He says he picks up 3 pounds of trash, on average, every day on his same walking route. Courtesy of Dave Bradley

In this season of political animus, let’s set aside our differences – momentarily, please? – to focus on the one thing we can all agree on without calling for a special session in Raleigh:

Charlotte’s streets are a mess.

Yep. We’ve got a veritable trash heap of junk, litter and debris along the more than 2,400 miles of city-maintained streets. And that’s not counting the highways and byways in neighboring locales.

Hopefully you’re not reading this online as you cruise down Tryon or Steele Creek or Albemarle Road. But if you are, put your phone down long enough to gaze at the flotsam not only junking up the curb but the medians and sidewalks. Take a good look at your neighborhood, too.

Your first reaction – beyond ‘Yuck’ – ought to be that this is an avoidable eyesore. None of that junk should be where it is.

It’s a litter disaster of embarrassing proportions. Just what we want visitors, potential businesses and others to see. Like it or not, city cleanliness is one way non-Charlotteans judge us.

There’s an environmental and physical enormity to this visual blight.

If that broken chunk of styrofoam cup or plastic bottle lying on the pavement makes it to our storm drains, it’s sayonara. The next stop is McAlpine or Sugar Creek or some other waterway or lake downstream. Our waste becomes someone else’s problem, not to mention the adverse impacts on water, land and wildlife.

Then there is the sheer scope of the problem. My daily walk is one 2.5-mile lap around the same block – Sharon View to Colony to Fairview to Sharon and then home. When I step out the door, with me is a plastic grocery bag and I literally stoop to conquer: everything from fast food packages to discarded bottles to you-name-it go into in the bag and later the recycle bin.

Let’s round off the daily average gross weight of what I corral at roughly three pounds. Think about it – the same route. Every day. At three pounds per circuit, that’s 1,095 pounds of yearly trash along my route alone.

Extrapolating that to the 2,400 miles of city streets equals an astonishingly sickening 7,200 pounds of litter cluttering up our streets day in and day out.

If there’s that much litter along my relatively short path day after stinking day, Charlotte has to figure out how to contend with 2,628,000 pounds of unwanted debris strewn along city streets over the course of a year with much of it not collected.

Each of us should ask: What can I do to help?

If you’re among the miscreants who blithely throw things out your car window, stop. Still, tossers are gonna toss.

That leaves you and me to do the dirty work. It’s easy to pass it off as someone else’s problem. Shouldn’t we, however, shoulder some civic responsibility to keep our neighborhoods clean? City crews can only do so much.

So the final answer is relatively simple. Even if you don’t lug a bag around with you, pick something up. Put it in your recycle bin. Do your part. Citizen responsibility starts with you.

Dave Bradley lives in SouthPark and chronicles his daily litter walks at pickupyourpath.com.

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