Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Monday, April 22, 2013
Thirty-six tons of trash and more than 500 tires; this is the recent haul collected by 1,400-plus volunteers at this year’s Clean Valley Day on April 13.
While we are proud to have such dedicated volunteers who care enough about their environment and community to spend the most perfect spring morning out cleaning up other people’s litter, it is troubling that this amount of waste is in our streets, parks, greenways and rivers.
The Roanoke Valley — with its tree-lined streets, surrounding forested mountains and many creeks that all flow into our Roanoke River — is truly a beautiful place to live. And yet our streets and rivers are littered enough to require multiple trash trucks working all day to pick up litter collected by a group of volunteers.
The Clean Valley Council was established more than 35 years ago to address litter prevention issues, and while there has been a positive change in the amount of litter over the past few decades, we still bring in on average 25 to 40 tons of trash at each of our biannual litter cleanup events. And this does not include the continuing efforts of the sheriff and police departments that have cleanup crews working our streets throughout the year.
Littering is illegal. Litter is ugly. Litter pollutes our creeks and rivers. Litter creates health and safety hazards for both humans and wildlife. Why, then, do so many people still toss their cigarette butts, drink cups, car parts, household furniture, dirty diapers, tires, used clothing and more out into the street or into the river? We are often amazed at what our volunteers find on these cleanup days. Whole furniture sets, enough old bikes to hold a kids’ greenway bike race, illegal and illicit materials that are dangerous and hazardous to all, animals that have perished from choking on litter. It sure isn’t pretty.
For some, it may just be habits and a legacy of how things used to be done. We must continue our efforts to educate and make residents aware that their trash has an effect. It may not be seen by you after you toss it, but it does become a problem for the environment, people and animals that all live here. We hear from our volunteers that clean neighborhoods also improve the quality of life for their residents. That joining together to work toward solving a problem helps create a sense of community, a sense of civic pride.
How can we solve this problem? It starts with our habits. It almost seems too simple to mention, but follow grandmother’s wisdom and take care of your own stuff: Use a trash can! We have a great solid waste collection program throughout the valley, and believe it or not, one is never too far from a trash can. Forgo the small amount of inconvenience and hold on to the trash you created, including those ubiquitous cigarette butts, until you locate a trash can.
The mantra Reduce-Reuse-Recycle still holds true, with reduce being the first line of defense. We buy and use and toss a tremendous amount of stuff, often in the name of convenience. Reducing the amount of single-use disposable items such as plastic bags, plastic bottles and other food and beverage containers is imperative if we are to make a difference. These items, with the exception of smoking-related items, are the most-often-found litter in our area and elsewhere. They are so numerous, most of our teams give up counting. Furthermore, most of these items are absolutely recyclable and don’t even need to become more waste in the landfill.
And finally, use reusable materials whenever you can, whether they are coffee mugs, water bottles or shopping bags. One reusable shopping bag can replace hundreds of single-use plastic bags. Let’s enjoy the new spring leaves and gorgeous blossoms in our abundant trees and not the unnatural plastic bag “flower” that is all too common.
Care about our valley. Treat it with the respect you would your own home. Teach your children, family and friends that littering has no place in our Roanoke Valley.
For more ideas on how to a make a difference, check our website, cleanvalley.org, or call and we can do programs for your school or civic group.
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