Spots in Time: Gord Turner

Not my problem

On my way to Selkirk College for my weight-room workout each morning recently, I’ve noticed a bag of garbage littered on the right edge ofthe highway turnabout for the college. As you leave Highway 3 and follow the great arc of the interchange that puts you on the highway tothe college and onward to Nelson, you’ll see that someone has dumped a bag of trash.

What’s a bag of trash, you will say? Nothing really, other than an eyesore as you drive by. People who are not into recycling and don’t careabout the environment simply shrug their shoulders. Once they toss their bag of refuse out of the vehicle onto the road shoulder, theymerely say, “Not my problem anymore.”

I wondered if this roadside eyesore was anyone else’s problem. Perhaps most people drive right by and don’t even see it, although becausethe bag split open and spilled its contents, it should catch everyone’s attention. On a given day, thousands of cars make that turn and headfor Nelson, the airport, or the college. And yet after four days, the garbage mess is still sitting there. I guess everyone simply says, “Not myproblem.”

I wonder if this litter is not being picked up because people are saying to themselves, “Oh well, Waste Management or Alpine Disposalgarbage trucks will soon do the job.” Or perhaps drivers are saying it’s too difficult to stop because the shoulder is quite narrow and thepullout is 100 meters further on. Possibly some folks are worried about disease or germs if they pick up somebody else’s garbage.

Anyway, after pondering this situation for a few days, I took an empty bag from home and picked up this mess. It was easy to accomplish,but thousands of drivers didn’t think so. They clearly shook their heads and said, “Not my problem.”

How often do we see paper and plastic drink cups tossed along our city streets? Coffee and juice drinkers can walk for blocks holding thesecontainers and sipping away. But once the containers are empty, they get dropped right where the people are walking, sometimes on thecurb, sometimes in the nearby bushes, and often on the sidewalk itself. Once the container leaves their hands, I can almost hear their words “Not my problem now.”

What’s interesting is that joggers and walkers slide by these discarded containers daily and do nothing about it. If everyone picked up onecontainer and took it to the nearest disposal bin, things would look a lot better faster. Perhaps they’ve read the sign that says Mac andCathy (or other city volunteers) will pick up litter on that street. So they rationalize, “Ah, somebody is in place to do the clean-up. Not myproblem.” And on they go unencumbered by discarded containers or any kind of guilt.

I’ve also noticed a litter problem in quite a few city parking lots. One grocery parking lot for example has paper, coffee cups, cigarette butts,and empty bags plastered to its surface. These items have been walked upon, driven over, and soaked by snow or rain. Sometimes when Iarrive there, I notice a pile of waste from some driver having cleaned out his or her vehicle and dumped the mess onto the parking lotsurface.

And yet this grocery outlet is set up with huge bins outside both entry ways within 100 meters of most of the parking lot. I guess a lot ofpeople are too lazy or indifferent to walk their litter a few yards to the appropriate disposal bin. It’s easier for them to chuck the offendingplastic cup between vehicles and drive away saying, “Not my problem.”