The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

September 21, 2007

Weekend Challenge: Pick Up Some Plastic

As I walked around my neighborhood today doing errands (I don’t go to work most Fridays), I noticed a lot of trash, mostly plastic, along the sidewalks and in the gutters. And with that photo of the dead albatross whose stomach is full of plastic pieces burned into my brain these days, it’s physically hard for me not to reach down and start picking it up.

I wrote about “eco-running” in the beginning of August, where runners carry bags and pick up trash on the route. And Scott from Least Footprint set up a Google Group called PUP (Pick Up Plastic) Brigade to organize folks to pick up plastic in their neighborhoods.

I picked up a lot of plastic today (bottle caps, plastic bags, drink lids, straws, snack bags, even the face plate from a cell phone and a toothbrush) and used one of the dirty plastic bags I picked up to carry it all and dump it in the trash. And yes, I washed my hands afterwards! I know I’ve said I don’t like to throw away plastic bags, but these were already garbage in the street. The landfill is better than the storm drains leading to the bay.

I also scored a bag of sunflower seed shells for my compost!

So instead of a discussion question, I have a challenge. Go out and pick up some plastic in your neighborhood this weekend. If you live in a fairly urban place like I do, it won’t take long to gather a bagful. Spend as much or as little time on this as you want. It doesn’t have to take up much of your weekend.

And you’re allowed to wear gloves if you feel you need to. I did the first time I went eco-running, but on today’s walk the dirt didn’t bother me as much. Maybe because I’d been listening to Barbara Kingsolver talk about dirt in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Hands are washable.

When you’re done, come back and report what you found. If you are able to upload pictures, even better!

And here’s today’s update on the Trash Challenge.

P.S. I’m so excited. I think it’s started to rain finally!

P.P.S. I almost forgot. I and a member from Green Sangha will be tabling at the Temescal Farmer’s Market this Sunday with a big display called “Rethinking Plastics.” This display usually lives in Marin, but the Marin chapter has been kind enough to lend it to us for this weekend. If you live anywhere near Oakland, CA, please come out and visit us. The Temescal farmer’s market is at the bottom of Claremont Avenue near Telegraph in the DMV parking lot. The hours are 9am – 1pm. Hope to see you.

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16 years ago

Beth, you have such a comprehensive site, I can’t resist responding to several topics. I think this is the third in the last day or so.

I’m a litter picker-upper of long standing. I see people walking dogs with a bag for poop but they will walk right by litter! In our town, the city does not separate the recyclables from the trash collected in public trash barrels, so once I week I visit the local yuppie commercial strip and go through the litter barrels ( 7 or 8 of them along the sidewalk) extracting the recyclables. The city gave me a 50 gallon toter and I fill it each week. A great deal of what I gather are Starbuck’s plastic cups. I have to stack them to save space. Aluminum and glass are definitely falling from favor. When I look at my full toter I take satisfaction that one person alone is able to make up for the actions of hundreds. Generally I am ignored by the public though occasionally someone, usually a woman, will say thanks. It is impressive how an overflowing barrel ends up only half full and my greatest hope is that kids are watching. With the Chinese and Indians eager to ramp up to Western lifestyles, we will need much more of this multiplication of effort to even keep our heads above water environmentally. Don’t do as most do and walk past litter. Instead, improve your hand-eye coordination, the strength of your back and the soundness of your sleep. It also sharpens your attentiveness to things around you, just the opposite of what an iPod or cellphone does.

Crafty Green Poet
16 years ago

I did this on holiday in the Orkney islands a week or so ago. We picked up some plastic from the beach and put it into a bin as soon as we could. I’m going to start carrying a small reused paper or plastic bag with me to put waste plastic in to then deposit in a bin. I’ve seen the same photos of albatrosses with stomachs filled with plastic and I can’t beleive that we are so stupid as a species that we let that happen.

16 years ago

By the way, here in the Midwest, our biggest problem with “escapee” plastic bags is that they blow into farm fields and get hung up on the no-till crop residue all winter, necessitating sending youngsters out into the fields to pick them up before the spring planting can be done. While it’s a great way for youngsters to earn a little money, it’s an expense and nuisance for the farmers. So even red-staters hate the durn things.

16 years ago

I work every morning as an adult crossing guard. There is a middle-aged man who passes me every morning as he walks for execize. For years he has taken a plastic grocery bag with him to collect trash, and he fills it every day. He recycles what can be recycled and throws the rest in the trash. He keeps our street nice and tidy! I have always appreciated him.

Anna Hackman
16 years ago

Beth-this is a great idea. Whenever my husband and I take a walk, I come home with plastic and glass bottles. I keep saying I am going to carry a bag everytime we go out! I hope people pick up alot of plastic. anna