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May flowers and 500 million drinking straws …

If it’s true that April showers bring May flowers then, well, based on this morning’s downpour we’re in for a boatload of blossoms next month (however, the adage doesn’t hold too much credence in the South since tulips and daffodils bloom in February around here).

There is a persistent insidiousness to the trash jaunts that I’ve never talked (aka ‘whined’) about until my Bridger Wilderness hiking buddy Tom Bohr pointed out in a Chicago Tribune story; the cascade of plastic drinking straws that are seemingly everywhere. I pick up the infernal sippers every single day. Thanks, Tom, for pointing out this evil.


Some weekend mornings I really should pay more attention to the weather forecast.

Clad in routine walking garb, I stepped out the front door at 6:20 a.m. – to be greeted by a steady rain. Would it kill me to at least look out the window, as normal people might, as my coffee is brewing? Dolt.

What the rain did was cement a decision to retrieve only true non-degradables: plastic and polystyrene. Paper and other sodden jetsam could wait for another day.

My surgeon would be proud; the trek was slo-mo. Yet even with limited stooping and bending over, it was clear early on that a poly Chick-fil-A cup here and a McDonald’s poly cup there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real trash. The bag filled in a hurry.

It’s the poly cups that kill me. How is it that we manufacture something by the seeming bazillions that only serve to keep our sodas cold for another 10 minutes – heaven forbid our dainty little hands might get chilled – yet will lay around uncompostable, non-degradable and largely unrecyclable for hundreds of years? I mean, really? We can’t at least crank out heavier paper cups that can be recycled?

I kept telling myself ‘that’s enough junk for today’ but there’s no passing up a plastic bottle or another chunk of poly. There just isn’t. I set the bag on the sidewalk to let the innards expand and figure out a resting spot for the ‘final’ find and promise myself ‘no more trash’ – until the next piece of litter comes into view. I never have to wait long.

You know how to tell the weather is getting warmer? A highly subjective (yet no doubt accurate) PUYP study reveals that the hotter the temps, the more plastic bottles are strewn about. I love scientific findings like that.


Another scourge: U.S. slurpers gulp through 500 million drinking straws – every day.

Don’t ask me why, but while discarded drinking straws have been a persistent thorn in my side, somehow the plastic tubular trash still hasn’t made my Top 3 baddies list of junk I truly hate to pick up.

But I should reconsider based on the Trib article Tom sent to me.

IMG_2962

The sight of a plastic straw impaled in to plastic lid is an all-too-familiar one along my path. I pick up straws every day. Every day.

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, citing the non-biodegrability of the polypropylene and the danger the mostly single-use straws present to wildlife, has ceased to use the straws, as have some forward-thinking local restaurants. (Note to behind-the-curve Charlotte eateries: why not follow suit?)

According to the news report, American consumers use 500 million plastic straws each day, most of which ends up in landfills if not recycled. Some days, it feels like I pick up 17 percent of all U.S. straw production.

Maddeningly so, straws are an all-too-routine find during my daily walks. As of this moment, straws are now elevated to number 3 status on my most most-hated list behind anything polystyrene and those plastic tooth floss thingies people so carelessly fling to the pavement. Plastic bottles slip to the fourth spot.


The upside to two quarters.

Still, today’s trek was not all gloom-and-doom.

I happened across a couple of quarters glistening in the grassy median along Sharon View Road. Coupled with a dime found earlier in the walk, that cash haul will be tossed into a cigar box to help fund my walk across Spain – the Camino de Santiago – later this year. We’ll see how Spaniards deal with trash.

But I’d better start finding a helluva lot more quarters.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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