Two weeks ago, Wilkes University hosted The Big Event, a universitywide community service opportunity where students, staff, alumni and faculty were welcomed to assist in projects around the community and on campus.
I was assigned to Team B and set out with about 50 or so other students toward the river common with trash bags and work gloves.
Team B’s job was to pick up trash along the river from the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center to the courthouse. My sister and I started working near the Market Street bridge entrance.
All of your basic trash could be found down there: plastic drink bottles, half-degraded napkins, various wrappers, baggies of dog poop, and more.
But there are two trash categories in particular that if removed, would eliminate literally half of the litter problem along the river: broken glass and cigarette butts.
While cleaning up, a woman walking her dog stopped to ask us if we were volunteers, and what exactly we were doing. We told her, and she immediately jumped on the opportunity to chat about the trash problem.
The woman explained that she often takes walks by the river and picks up a certain amount of garbage every time.
She said she has seen kids deliberately throw bottles from the wall down onto the walkway for no reason at all- maybe because the bottles make a cool sound as they smash onto the concrete, she suggested.
She continued to explain that despite her efforts to pick up garbage, she often has to steer her little dog away from broken glass on the walkway because the dog doesn’t see it and could potentially hurt its feet.
I hadn’t even thought about that. Some of those pieces, the brown ones in particular, could also potentially look like dog treats, and not all dogs are smart. One could easily be ingested.
This is additionally a hazard for anyone not wearing shoes, and with the nice weather coming, it isn’t uncommon for people to start taking them off.
Resolving this glass issue isn’t easy because it’s more of a respect-for-other-people’s-properties type of thing. Kids will be kids, and even some college students aren’t mature enough to discard their drink bottles in a respectful manner. But city officials could easily penalize kids for littering, and most of us don’t have large sums of money to waste on fines.
Perhaps a more feasible problem to undertake, however, are the cigarette butts. These are the real issue. They’re everywhere. The world is everyone’s ashtray. It’s disgusting.
My sister and I picked up most of them range we were in. Then, we exited the river area and began walking down the sidewalk.
I started picking up more cigarette butts but soon found that the job was almost impossible. I wanted to pick up all of them, but there were far too many on the side of the road that I was forced to abandon them and only allowed myself to pick up larger trash objects.
I decided that an achievable solution to this problem is for the city to invest in a few of those plastic outdoor cigarette receptacles and disperse them around the river common.
The cigarette butts were generally concentrated in different areas, such as at the ends of the concrete stairs where people can sit. Since disposal into trash cans runs the risk of igniting garbage, placing the receptacles in these spots would definitely make a difference.
People would feel more obligated to dispose of their cigarettes properly, in a safe container, rather than throw them on the ground.
Another simple action that could be taken is replacing the doggie waste container near the left side of the bridge. Since the container is almost fully dented inward, dog owners were unable to throw away their waste baggies and simply discarded them onto the ground.
While they’re at it, recycling containers would be a huge benefit as well.
Two days later, I returned to the river to enjoy the nice weather and found two red and white striped Crown Fried boxes, chicken wings and French fries strewn across the common. Unbelievable!
I feel that for a relatively small price, the city could easily solve or at least improve some of the trash problems occurring down by the river. Reality shows us that not all individuals are considerate enough to walk to a trash can, but small undertakings such as littering fines, cigarette receptacles and new waste containers may steer more people to do the right thing.