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A sickening accounting: seven lurid days in June … adios, litter control chain gangs

Sometimes one needs to be careful what one wishes for.

Over the years I’ve guesstimated the poundage of retrieved trash and opined ad nauseam about the vileness of varying pieces of litter, but never sucked it up to consider, literally, how many individual chunks of junk were picked up and stowed in my ever-present plastic bag.

Until this week.

Bagfuls of litter representing seven days of trash collection were dumped on the driveway, photographed for posterity, and the audit then commenced with a piece-by-piece count.

And here is your final tally (drum roll, please): 589. The daily average was 84.1 pieces of trash. The size and weight of the individual items was of no concern; regardless of dimension, each piece required the same amount of effort to retrieve.

Part of me thought the daily numbers would be higher. That must be hubris coming to the surface. Still, by any accounting, that’s a lot of trash removed from sight & circulation.

Even my friends Sondra and Jody got into the act; they posted a Facebook photo of nine pieces of trash they corralled at a golf course near Nashville. That was so heartening to see. It harkens back to the truism that every piece removed from the environment counts.

Math geeks can take the seven day audit several purient steps further.

For one, you can multiply the five-days-per-week average to extrapolate a yearly haul of junk. Since I take a few days off now and then, I’ve multiplied 589 times 47 weeks. The total is a whopping 27,683 pieces of litter.

If memory serves me right, I’ve picked up litter for eight years. Give or take a couple of pieces of junk, that pushes the grand total to 221,461. That’s not that far from a smooth quarter million. It’s despicable that it has to come to this; our streets are literally filthy and clogged with trash and other refuse.

Now, I’ve never been particularly good with numbers, but these totals make my math-phobia all that much worse. Not to mention making my stomach turn.

We can say goodbye to a mainstay of clean roadsides in North Carolina.

Prison inmate chain gangs, a fixture along our roads for nearly a century, will fall to the budget axe of the North Carolina legislature.

A bean counter has deduced that a private contractor could fulfill the chain gang duties much cheaper and much more efficiently. Prison crews clean 4.5 miles per day; the accountant types estimate that for-profit firms could clean 31 miles of road shoulders per day.

The 1,200 inmates assigned to pick up-and-bag details will have to find other ways for a whiff of fresh air, and the jobs of 183 correctional officers will cease.

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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