The real trash problem: the companies that make it

People shouldn’t litter, but individuals are not the real litter problem. The companies that make all those throwaway items are the problem. There are fixes, which we can implement. One fix Georgians can vote on right now: vote Yes on Amendment 1 please!

There was no lack of trash on the Alapaha River in September, at Berrien Beach Boat Ramp in Berrien County and at Berrien Beach in Lanier County. We found the usual cigarette butts, shotgun shells, and yes, a few used diapers.

Plus tires. To help stop tires being dumped by rivers, please vote Yes on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1 to stop fee diversions.

We found fewer shotgun shells and tires but more of everything else at Twomile Branch in Valdosta, Sugar Creek, and the Withlacoochee River in August.

Come to the big cleanup this Saturday on the Little, Withlacoochee, and Alapaha Rivers in Lowndes County and on Sugar Creek, Onemile Branch, and Twomile Branch in Valdosta October 10, 2020!

We expect as usual the most numerous items will be plastic and glass bottles and cans.

[Bottles]
Bottles

Sure people shouldn’t litter, but Anheuser-Busch and other beer makers, as well as Nestlé, Coca Cola, and Walmart, should stop making and selling disposable bottles and cans.

Fifty years ago those things had deposits on them, and people would collect them for the cash. In economic downturns such as right now, that could be useful to a lot of people, and a lot more cleanups would happen. Sure, there was still trash back then, but not as much.

People still do in Hawaii and nine other states: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Vermont, plus Guam. They don’t have nearly as big of a litter problem.

But Georgia or Florida do not have such container deposits. Maybe we should change that.

No, recycling will not solve this problem. There’s no market for plastic to recycle, and recycling has been pushed by big oil for years as an excuse to make more plastic throw-away containers. Laura Sullivan, NPR, 11 September 2020, How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled.

You’ve probably seen the famous ‘Crying Indian’ ad from 1971:

Crying Indian
A Keep America Beautiful advertisement by the Ad Council, which was launched in 1971. (Ad Council) – Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

Well, the “Indian” was Italian-American, and that ad was part of a campaign by the front group Keep America Beautiful. Finis Dunaway, Chicago Tribune, 21 November 2017, The ‘Crying Indian’ ad that fooled the environmental movement,

Keep America Beautiful was founded in 1953 by the American Can Co. and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., who were later joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Co. During the 1960s, Keep America Beautiful anti-litter campaigns featured Susan Spotless, a white girl who wore a spotless white dress and pointed her accusatory finger at pieces of trash heedlessly dropped by her parents. The campaign used the wagging finger of a child to condemn individuals for being bad parents, irresponsible citizens and unpatriotic Americans. But by 1971, Susan Spotless no longer captured the zeitgeist of the burgeoning environmental movement and rising concerns about pollution.

The shift from Keep America Beautiful’s bland admonishments about litter to the Crying Indian did not represent an embrace of ecological values but instead indicated industry’s fear of them. In the time leading up to the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental demonstrations across the United States focused on the issue of throwaway containers. All these protests held industry — not consumers — responsible for the proliferation of disposable items that depleted natural resources and created a solid waste crisis. Enter the Crying Indian, a new public relations effort that incorporated ecological values but deflected attention from beverage and packaging industry practices.

Sure, we do cleanups, and people should not litter. But the companies that make that throw-away trash are a much bigger problem.

Right now, Nestlé wants to suck up still more water from the Floridan Aquifer, this time near the Santa Fe River, so they can pump out more plastic bottles that we’ll have to pick up. You can help stop them.

Come to the cleanups: they’re fun, and they help our waterways. But also please help stop the companies that make all that litter.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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