Another way we’re losing against garbage–that is, against ourselves

March 15, 2023 by Joshua
in Nature

Several neighborhoods in New York City with commerce form local civic groups called “Business Improvement Districts” that provide extra services they find the government provides too little. Examples include safety and security by hiring people in uniforms walk a beat like cops used to, but not enforcing the law, just being present. The BIDs effectively charge a tax to provide what would normally be government services that remain unmet.

I bring them up because they often hire people to walk around with a trash can on wheels and a device to pick up litter with. To clarify, we pay people to pick up our litter. Here is a street cleaner paid to pick up other people’s litter, unbelievable though it should sound, though sadly it’s our culture:

Why should there be litter in the first place? How are people littering enough and not putting their trash in cans or simply not buying things that come packaged? Nearly all litter is doof wrappers for doof consumed on the go, none of which is necessary, all of which could be replaced by fresh, easily carried fruit, vegetables, and nuts requiring no packaging. They’re cheaper, healthier, and pollute less.

Besides these litter collectors, New York City has a Sanitation Department (a misnomer) that puts trash cans at most corners and collects them multiple times a day. The Sanitation Department’s budget is over a billion dollars a year. So on top of over-a-billion annually, many neighborhoods hire extra people to pick up what no one need ever drop on the ground. Anyone can hold on to any wrapper a minute or two until they find a trash can.

All the while, we’re losing. With all the money, people, and time we throw at the problem, litter keeps increasing.

Not too little sanitation. Too much supply.

The problem isn’t that we’re not cleaning enough. No sanitation department could keep up with the extra packaging resulting from plastic become nearly free because of fracking and other fossil fuel extraction. No one need ever buy nearly anything packaged in plastic. Even if you put the packaging in the trash or recycling, if you acquired it through buying something, you helped drive the system leading to more of it reaching the ocean, your bloodstream, and crossing the placenta to your child before birth.

I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t pick up litter every day. I mean, I understand their reasons, but I don’t understand why they don’t overcome these excuses to clean up our home.

The big benefit from cleaning litter is that the habit leads you to find packaged things disgusting, so you buy less and decelerate the process. I can’t believe people don’t find our litter situation a hair-on-fire crisis worth making one of one’s life priorities.

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