Mary’s Musings

There’s nothing attractive about roadside litter

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 8:45am

It’s time for some trash talk. While winter isn’t over, we’ve had a lot of bare ground this year and the view out the car window of our roadsides isn’t pretty.

Driving north on Route 27 (and back south) last week, the gutters had virtually no snow cover which left all of the trash naked and exposed. Thanks to Maine’s returnable bottle law, many of the bottles and cans are picked up by those who aren’t about to let five cents stare up at them without being retrieved. Most of the other “stuff’’ has little or no value and isn’t going to be rescued from the side of the road unless it’s by a public road crew, a volunteer organization, or a Good Samaritan who cares about the appearance of our peninsula.

The gutters are home these days to just about everything you can imagine: Household trash,  garbage bags, plastic cups and plates, chunks of metal, pieces of wood,  torn tarps, old cans — you name it, it’s probably there somewhere. While folks are pretty good about retrieving trash which lands in their own front yard, much of the area on our peninsula doesn’t border someone’s lawn and is ignored.

The good news is this: Most of our roadside trash probably wasn’t discarded on purpose by motorists, like it might have been a few decades ago, when anything you had been using in the car and no longer needed — cups, candy wrappers, etc. — was thrown out the window. We’re much more environmentally conscious today, thank goodness. We haven’t traveled by car on some southern roads between here and Florida in recent years, but when we did, we were disgusted with the amount of trash beside the rural roads. It didn’t appear to be an accident that much of it had been discarded.

How, pray tell, here in Maine, where we usually choose to dispose of our trash the proper way, does the litter end up along the edges of our roads? We believe the biggest culprits are pickup truck operators who throw unwanted items in the truck body without realizing that a good gust of wind once they get up a little speed will send much of the lightweight stuff flying through the air. We’ve seen entire trash bags blow off of trucks as the drivers were headed to the refuse disposal district, in addition to the usual lightweight beer or soda can, paper coffee cups, small tree branches, plastic trash can lids, etc. A lot of drivers have been surprised to arrive at their destination and discover they’re missing things.

A few years ago, a local resident used to periodically submit a letter to the editor calling for all truck drivers to cover their loads. Few ever heeded his advice, just as they pay little attention to pleas to remove snow and ice from vehicle rooftops for the safety of those behind them. A couple of weeks ago, we were surprised when a large chunk of ice flew off a car headed in the other direction on a divided highway and landed on our windshield, luckily with no damage.

Snow cover may be with us for a while, although we hope not, but when it does disappear, our scenic roadways will lose a lot of their appeal. Perhaps it’s time for residents to form roadside clean-up crews willing to be responsible for keeping an eye out for certain sections of roads in their own neighborhood.  Some conscientious walkers often take along trash bags and pick up small litter and are to be commended for their efforts. If we all do our share in our own little corner of the peninsula, it could make a big difference. There’s nothing appealing about roadside litter. Nothing.