Litter Be Gone

Pick_Up_Boonville_LogoAfter a fantastic Sixth Annual Pick-Up Boonville, I still feel inspire and keep tackling new routes. Perhaps you saw us picking up along a busy roadway one beautiful morning early April. Our action plan – we each took one side of the road. Although I already knew this, as we trudged up the hill I was reminded once again, we are a mismatched pair.  When it comes to picking up litter, I’m a Type A+ personality sort, whereas my partner, well he is too mellow to even define.  Mismatched perhaps, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I lagged further and further behind, I kept hearing those dreaded words “Leave the cigarette butts!”  Finally I was out of earshot!  Realizing we had only allotted one hour to this task, I begrudgingly passed up the butts and made more progress up the hill; that is until I came upon a drainage area in the woods to my left.  When I see litter headed downhill, all bets are off. I attack it with a vengeance; I might as well pack a lunch!  Major acrobatics ensued as I attempted to capture yet one more elusive piece of litter as I envisioned it floating into the Missouri River.  Finally I maneuvered myself out of the brush and focused my efforts on the bank visible from the road. I didn’t purposely start on the toxic butts again, but if I was already bent over you bet I grabbed the butts within reach; then the butts close-by if it only required shifting my weight and moving just one foot!  Yeah, I can compromise, well sort of.

As I looked up the hill, I realized my partner must have run into a challenging area, as I was getting closer. I was also feeling confident since I had a trick in my back pocket – the car keys! Although there was a risk factor – we were within walking distance from home. As it turned out, we reached our end goal around the same time. I was elated when he said he would walk back down the hill to get our car, more time to nab cigarette butts!  After finishing the intersection, I headed back down the hill. Dang – a newly tossed McDonalds coffee cup lid! Okay, so I’m not telling anybody where I picked up, just in case a reader will purposefully litter there and, well let’s say, challenge my personal growth. Yeah, when I’m deep in litter recognizance, my mind can go there.  Reset, the birds were singing and the trees were in bloom, pear trees and redbuds!  Wish we could give this route more than an hour, but I have another map calling my name!


Cigarette Butt Bust Challenge

One thousand less cigarette butts; now our soils, waterways, fish and wildlife will be just a little bit less toxic!  Early December, I captured 1000 of these toxic litter bits in my neighborhood in 1 ½ hours, one gallon of butts including six cigarette packages and eight cigar tips.  Those butts were generally scattered absolutely everywhere, but at times I did run across clean stretches.  No doubt we have some wonderful picker uppers out there already – Many Thanks!  And thanks to the person who honked, I’m assuming you were showing your appreciation for my pick-up efforts or my derriere, either way – Thanks!

12-7-15 Cigarette Butt Bust
My haul after 1 1/2 hours.

Four and one half trillion cigarette butts are thrown away every year world-wide, most simply tossed on the ground, our most pervasive litter.  Those butts not only diminish the beauty of our town, the toxic accumulation leaches into our soils and waterways poisoning our food chain.  A more immediate health threat, they are also mistaken for food by fish, wildlife, pets and even small children.  I’m guessing we might have more than our share given Missouri’s horrendously low tax rate of 17 cents per pack, the lowest in the nation. Those butts are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic slow to biodegrade with a filter designed to absorb vapors and chemicals; certainly not something good to have lying around absolutely everywhere!

Here is what I’m thinking; my route only covered around two-thirds of a mile, both sides of the road.  We need to all work on this together!

If you want to join the “Cigarette Butt Bust” –

-Grab a small bag and a pair of tight fitting gloves (don’t touch those toxic butts).

-While picking up just focus on your mission – 1000 cigarette butts – Don’t let the bulk and weight of all the other litter distract you.  You can grab that later. No need to count the butts, one gallon of butts is your visual target.

-Every 100 butts or so, stand up straight and stretch leaning backwards.

-Be aware of traffic – It’s easy to lose track of your footings while in a dizzy stupor repeatedly bending over.

-Don’t pick up right after you eat a huge bowl of oatmeal, learn from my mistake.

-For those driving by, express your appreciation or maybe stop and help.

-Consider tackling this challenge in increments, my upper leg muscles were sore for days.

-If you have a bad back, grab a kid to pick up with you, or train your dog.  For an easier pick up, focus on areas of concentration utilizing a long handled dustpan and broom to sweep up.  There are ample toxic piles gracing our streets, parks and parking lots.

-For a larger impact, consider forming a group to tackle larger areas and/or shout out challengers to your friends, neighbors, and city leaders to do the same on your local radio.  I’m certainly putting the challenge out community-wide via e-mails, the local newspaper and radio. I plan to announce our results at our Sixth Annual Pick-Up Boonville event March 19, 2016!

– As for smokers, quit flicking those butts! Better yet, quit smoking!

I realize, for many of you, it’s a bit cold out there but warmer days do show up randomly. So go ahead and pick your spot and get started now, or put it on your To Do List. Exercise while contributing to your community!  You might choose to pick up along a busy roadway, along your street, walking route, work or church parking lot, or concentrate on one of your local parks or downtown.  Wherever you go, no doubt, you will quickly capture 1000 butts.  Then challenge someone else to do the same. Many, many thanks in advance! Let’s have a great “Cigarette Butt Bust”!