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Trash talk 

We should engage in the civic duty of cleaning up our neighborhoods

Trash. Well, humm. It's not something that I would have thought to discuss during a cocktail party or pleasant gathering of friends. Not that we can have cocktail parties and gatherings in these times of COVID-19.

My career has afforded me the chance to work in downtown SLO. Since I returned home from my adventures on the East Coast, I have been given the opportunity to walk to work each day. Gone are the days spent in cars, trains, or planes on extended commutes.

Walking the streets of our fair city over the past two years has given me a different perspective on our town. Even with COVID-19, our county shows a great deal of graciousness and welcoming on the streets. But as much as I know we love our county, I have been shocked at the volume of garbage, detritus, and junk that is dumped on our streets each day.

I walk, rain or shine, 1.6 miles to work (its only 3,900 steps, for those of you who are into that). After COVID-19 struck, I started to notice the trash. It started with the disposable masks. No one wants to touch or pick up a disposed-of mask. It's got the icky factor of a used Band-Aid.

In November, I decided that I would exploit my time on my work commute to pick up garbage. I bought a $20 grip picker widget from Amazon and utilize plastic grocery bags that accumulate in the kitchen.

Boy, I have been shocked. My minimum capture of prey (trash) is one full grocery bag, each way, each day. I want to say that again, a minimum of two full bags each day of basic garbage. This is on the same basic route. I vary my pathway by only a street or two in my travels.

There is a scientific and social study called garbology (I am not making that up) that is the study of advanced civilizations by studying their garbage. And while I do not log, categorize, and study my finds, one does get an overall feel for the community when one is picking the crap up.

The highest quantity of my quarry are receipts and clothes tags. Can someone explain the need to walk out of Ross, rip off the clothing tags, and then drop them? This is not a Ross issue. It is a lazy consumer issue. Loose receipts on the other hand, are everyone's issue, from coffee shops and restaurants to the Apple Store.

The largest volume has been the cups, cans, and bottles. To the gentleman who is on the phone and leaves his Black Horse coffee cup sitting on the edge of the city trash can. Was it supposed to fly in by itself? You do know that it will be knocked down and end up in the gutter, correct? To the three 20-somethings eating in front of Habit Burger who then left their trash and cups for "someone" to pick up: What the heck?

And yes, there are spots I focus on due to the homeless. I call them treasure troves, where I can fill up several bags (across from the 7-Eleven by the Wells Fargo bank). Or along the Mission Plaza and creek, where people of a wide demographic strata congregate. And to the people who go and buy bunches of individual pizzas and hand them out to the homeless, stop it. That money could be better used through CAPSLO to provide a real difference. Plus, I get the joy of picking up the trash.

As we trend further into 2021, I want to ask all my community members to review one thing in their lives. Why is it easy to get people to do a beach cleanup but not one in their own neighborhoods? Those little round emblems on your local street drain show that the debris heading through the opening goes to the creek and then to the ocean. So, the trash you do not pick up around your neighborhood will be there waiting for you at the beach.

I have no great epiphany that some will read this and become garbology aficionados like myself. I just wanted to point out, that while you walk your dog, bring a bag and picker. While you stroll pushing the carriage, show your kids what civic duty is.

We all must admit that we have created the trash and are creating the problem. Can we all do just a little bit to fix it? Δ

Scott Pickford wishes readers hope and love in 2021. Send a response for publication to [email protected].

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