Trash Talk

The other morning, as I dragged our two large containers down our driveway, I marveled again at how our recycling bin is full while the one for trash is less than half full. Over the years, as more and more materials can be recycled, the ratio of recycling to trash has grown. I say this not to pat ourselves on the back — it’s as much a Vermont thing as a Mansfield thing. It seems that roadside trash, always rather limited, is also improving over the last few years.

149291467_895e4f69a1_mThen my thoughts turned to the terrible situations we will soon encounter as we travel with the #Airstream to the Southwest. Every year we get discouraged about the trash along roadways and the lack of recycling. So I decided to recycle a post I wrote several years ago, since nothing has changed for the good.  Here it is from February 2012:

One of the big disappointments about Texas birding is the amount of trash you encounter along roadways – about anywhere. Many times I’ve spotted a Crested Caracara up ahead to find it’s only one more Walmart plastic bag tangled on a fence post. Of course, with no recycling, no returnable deposit, and a “toss it out the window” mentality, what can you expect?

Recycling is about non-existent throughout the South. It hurts to crush plastic milk cartons and toss them with the cardboard, cans, and other recyclables. State parks are pretty lame, with only aluminum cans collected. Since we drink no soda or beer from cans, well you get the picture.

The other day I drove over to a large wildlife management area for some birding. It is used for grazing as well and some of the residents didn’t seem too impressed by the Vermont plates and kayak on the red truck.

It was a foggy morning and on the way on the access road, I saw a life bird – a White-tailed Kite perched in a dead tree. I took a photo through my scope which was pretty fuzzy but ok for documentation. 

Once I left the truck and began birding alongside the Guadeloupe River, I was shocked by the debris. Some was from recent high water but much was crap left by hunters and fishermen. Beer cans galore, fishing line in trees, it was really depressing. But some great birds helped make up for it. Red-bellied woodpeckers made a racket while dozens of yellow-rumps did their flycatchers act.

The highlight was a big bird that flew off and perched in a tree up ahead. Thankful that I didn’t have the dog with me, I got right underneath a Great Horned Owl who watched me through the branches but stayed perched as I photographed it and then quietly moved on. 

It was a good birding outing but I could not help but contrast it with my trips to rather pristine New England WMA’s. Sure, you’ll always run into idiots who litter, but in Texas, it seems to be genetically imprinted. Mary and I are far from alone at our disgust for the situation – many from Canada and the upper mid-West share our opinion – as I’m sure do many Texans.

We have found a few parks and municipalities where there is more recycling so often we rattle along with several weeks worth of recycling in the truck, looking for a home.

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3 Responses to Trash Talk

  1. I share your concern about littering, in the South or anywhere. In San Antonio we do recycle, and just my son and I can fill a bin with approved material, although we don’t use soft drinks, and maybe two wine bottles in a month. It is somewhat worse in Laredo and other border towns, but I do see a marked reduction in roadside trash compared to twenty years ago. I remember driving down US 95, a two lane road to Yuma, AZ, and the roadsides glittered and flashed in the broiling sun on thousands of broken beer bottles. Literally piles of them. Maybe that has changed. I hope so.

    But nothing in the US can compare with the trash heap that is the Baja Highway, one thousand miles of magnificent scenery and most of the roadside covered with literally feet of garbage, trash, and hundreds of wrecked cars and trucks. I will never go back, it was so sickening.

  2. John Snell says:

    I remember wading through trash along the Texas Gulf Coast that was knee deep—literally! And piles of beer cans and bottles along the otherwise stunningly gorgeous highways of NM. Alas, it seems to be a human condition in all places. I face similar issues when on vacation and have decided to always try to do the best I can, e.g. pick up roadside litter and recycle personal materials whenever possible—and it almost always is. I’ve found this can lead to adventures, like finding a recycle bin, and meeting new people (“Why are you picking that stuff up?”).

    Also, this link to an phone app may help:

    Or this one about Target stores having recycling facilities for all customers:

    I enjoy hearing about your travels and your birds. All the best

  3. Rick Sorensen says:

    Dick, we are in AZ now and have been here for going on a month now, and that is the first thing we noticed- NO recycling. Excuse me, aluminum cans only. That is a disgrace. We Vermonters have a lot to be proud of. It is kind of strange but I bought a 6 pack of beer in Sierra Vista and all the bottles were marked .05 return in Vt,NY,MA, ME, HI, IA. Must be not having to recycle is a right, like wearing a pistol into Walmart. Don’t think I’ll ever get used to the mentality out here.

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