Thursday, March 25, 2021

Discarded Masks and Other Trash

Discarded mask
This column is directed to all you people who litter. Not, you, the readers, because anyone who gets the Beacon-Villager is too civic-minded to litter, but the other “you”, who live in Maynard, or perhaps are just traveling through, and contribute, and contribute, and contribute to the mess recently unveiled by melting snow.

An observant walk through the streets of Maynard will spy empty miniature alcohol bottles – also known as nips, testers, shooters, minis and airplane bottles – with a distribution mostly not too far from the liquor store where they were purchased. From talking to store owners, buyers are typically adults who buy several of these small plastic bottles at a time, and need to be deterred from starting to drink before they are out of the store. Why not just buy a pint, or a fifth? A good guess is that people who are not supposed to be drinking where they live want something easy to conceal, something that can be drained and dropped, or else tossed out a car window. A saving grace is that these now-plastic bottles do not contribute to the broken glass problem.

Dog poop on snow may vanish from sight, but this does not mean that it has been transported to the ‘multiverse’ [Look it up.] More annoying than the melt-revealed pet deposits are the little bags, top-tied, and left alongside the rail trail. Sometimes these are carefully placed by one of the milestones, or on a boulder, as if the dog owner intends that they will retrieve these bags on their return walk home. They don’t. The rule: “You own the dog, you own the poop.”   

Weekly trash walks along the Maynard portion of
the Rail Trail fill several five gallon buckets. 
NOTE: Nearest Burger King is in Husdon.
Cigarette butt littering has declined for several reasons, the largest being that the percentage of American adults who smoke has declined from 21 percent fifteen years ago to 14 percent now. At $3.51 per pack, Massachusetts has the fourth-highest state tax on cigarettes in the nation (trailing NY, CT and RI), so that even people who smoke on a daily basis smoke fewer cigarettes. Moving to Virginia would mean $.30 per pack.  

For the many people who live near town-owned woodlands and drag Christmas trees into the woods - don't. I have seen paths at the end of dead-end streets with the entrances bracketed by decaying tree corpses ranging from freshly green (some still draped in tinsel) to years-old skeletonized remains. This is not returning your tree to nature. It is littering, plain and simple, and creating a fire hazard too.  

Back to alcohol – this time beer cans. Bud Light is the most common find. This preference was confirmed in a survey of 1,032 teenage drinkers, reported in the science journal Alcoholism in 2013. Almost 30% reported they had consumed Bud Light within the past 30 days. Close behind is Coors Light (which seems redundant). Please! If you are going to drink beer and litter, drink a beer that tastes like beer.

Discarded mask
New to the problem are face masks. Why people discard facemasks on streets and sidewalks is a mystery, but it happens. And who in their right mind wants to pick up a used facemask? For this, and for trash patrol in general, a five-gallon plastic bucket and one of those three-foot long graspers with the handle at one end and a rubber-clad pincer at the other, is the perfect tool. A recent science journal article published by researchers in Denmark estimated that worldwide, people are discarding 3,000,000 masks per minute. Most of these are designed to be short-term use disposable (as opposed to cloth), and contain plastic micro-fibers. If not properly disposed of in trash that will end up in sanitary landfill, degrading masks will contribute to microplastic contamination of fresh and salt water.

Mark trash-patrols the rail trail. Not owning a dog, it’s an excuse to go for a walk.  

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