Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Do litterbugs bug you?

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Greg Peck
Monday, April 7, 2014

It was nice to see many Janesville residents out raking their lawns and doing other yard work this weekend. The weather was ideal for such work—finally.

Some of the litter that has been strewn across the city's landscape all winter started to disappear with this yard work. I take a mile walk each morning with my dog, and I could have filled a trash bag with litter in recent days.

Street sweepers are starting to gather up some of this litter as the machines make the rounds. But litter on terraces remains prominent—aluminum cans and plastic bottles, paper trash and food containers and more. Busted beer bottles are a particular bugaboo. I typically wind up spending time collecting the shattered pieces so Molly doesn't hurt her paws.

Plastics, by the way, if not discarded properly, break down into smaller and smaller pieces until microscopic fragments eventually pollute our ground and water.

Sometimes when I'm walking and people have their trash cans at the curb, I'll pick up litter and drop it in the receptacles. I never understand how people can roll these out to the curb without seeing the trash lying around and picking it up themselves.

One particularly annoying sight was about a 6-foot long piece that looked like it fell off a car weeks ago. It was lying on Ringold Street. Once, someone placed it on the adjacent terrace. Good, I thought; now the homeowner will collect it, cut it up and put it in his trash can. Nope, the next day, it was back in the street. It looked like the homeowner had to drive over the top of this thing to park in front of his home for days on end. I saw the trash man using his new robotic truck to dump garbage cans at this stop last week, and even he didn't exit his vehicle to gather up this hard-to-miss piece of trash. Not his job, apparently.

Finally, Saturday morning, it was gone, except for a few pieces that had apparently broken off as people drove over it.

In rural areas, slobs can be even bigger problems, as D.S. Pledger detailed in his Sunday outdoors column. For example, someone with an old big-screen TV dumped the broken unit in a burn barrel in the back of a local cemetery. Too much trouble to pay a few bucks to properly dispose of this at a recycling center, apparently. Pledger also told of collecting more than 100 aluminum cans from a single ditch one spring as he bicycled a mile. Tires are another thing easily rolled into ditches in the rural countryside; let someone else deal with them.

The fine, Pledger notes, for littering is $265, but it's tough to catch lawbreakers. A few years ago, legislation proposed increasing that to $1,000 in hopes offenders might think twice before tossing. Unfortunately, that was apparently too rich for lawmakers' taste because the proposal failed to pass.

Too bad. Come on, people. Take a look outdoors, and consider the curb, gutter and street part of your property. Take a little pride. Collect that trash, and maybe other litterbugs might realize that your yard doesn't serve as an alternative dump.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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