By Trudy Whitney, contributing writer
I almost fell out of my car seat the other day, when I heard on the radio station that there is a bill in the Texas House of Congress making the tossing of a lighted cigarette against the law. REALLY? Is it not already against the law to litter? Also, the bill would not become effective until close to the end of the year. Now, what really gets me mad is that we are experiencing a wicked fire season and these lawmakers are in Austin working right now. If they insist on the redundancy of this bill, then let us rubber stamp it now so the highway patrol can put the violators on double secret probation for littering immediately.
I try not to let a lot of things bother me. However, littering gets my blood boiling. Everyday during our drive from the farm to the shop someone in our carpool comments on the vast amount of trash lying in the bar ditches along the roads. There are hubcaps and hardware on the farm-to-market road. There are plastic bags and butts in town. There are tires and cardboard on the highway. There are fast foods bags, soda cans and newspapers in our own parking lot. We even have a large trash receptacle at our front door that folks go to more trouble missing than getting the trash in the can. I can’t stand it! So here are a few facts about litter and the consequences of its existence.
Don’t be a butthead- I see less of this practice now, because of the increasing difficulty of text messaging, driving while smoking, and putting on makeup. Nevertheless, hands down, improperly discarded cigarette butts are the largest polluter in the United States. While as some local governments’ budgets include clean up of butts in their overall litter control, most municipalities neither have the funds nor the workforce to remove the stuff from streets and ditches. They are left to leave the butts where they will eventually decompose. I am not bashing smokers. They know the health hazards, but then trans fats will kill ya too! I am bashing litterbugs. The difference is a french fry will biodegrade must faster and safer than a cigarette filter.
Biodegradable or biohazard- Filters are composed of a bunch of unnatural ingredients which take one to two years to decompose. While the butts are decomposing, the toxins from stuff like cellulose acetate, tar, and calcium carbonate are polluting the storm drains and waterways. Even small wildlife will mistakenly eat butts and feel pretty sick to their stomachs later because, ironically, the fibers in butts are not a good source of fiber. Thinking that tossing a tiny cigarette butt out the car window is no big crime? Think again, and use your ashtray…please! Oh and don’t forget the fire hazard facing us in this drought.
Dance a jitterbug and don’t be a litterbug- The annual cost of roadside cleanup nationwide is over $115 million. If trash was not thrown out onto the highway we could bail out some other badly run business. The trash most commonly picked up consists of fast food containers and aluminum beer cans. Plastic bags from stores are another serious player since they like to dance in the wind and affix themselves out of reach in trees and fences. But you know this junk did not hop out of the cars unaided. I have faith that readers of this publication would never consider tossing a styrofoam to-go order out of their car. I am also sure you are as appalled as I am at the garbage that is intentionally discarded from a vehicle when you drive down the road. Who are these misguided individuals, and how can we help them?
Don’t mess with Texas- We’ve come a long way with this campaign. Punishment for littering starts at $200 fines and could include jail time. Commercials on TV have been effective at creating awareness of this problem. The Adopt a Highway program has spurred volunteers to help defray some of the expenses and manpower to keep Texas less messy. We have a longer way to go in cleaning up our highways and byways, but by gum… just keep a litter bag in your car and bend over once in a while to pick up a piece of trash. It’s pretty good exercise. Reusable retail or grocery bags help keep the plastic clutter under control. We even have reusable bags at our store. Free! All you gotta do is ask or buy a lot. If you don’t need ink, go ahead and spring for one at your favorite store. You’ll be “green stylin” for about a buck. For more information on how you might help tidy up your town, just Google “adopt a highway” and “littering in Texas”.
Trudy and Bill Whitney are the owners of Rapid Refill Ink, an independently owed retail franchise that refills and remanufactures inkjet and laser/toner cartridges for office and home printers. In an effort to encourage recycling, empty cartridges are brought to the store that can be reused many times. Sustainable and recycled products were utilized in the build out of the shop located in McKinney. For more information call 972.548.9393 or email email@example.com.