‘Tis the Season — But Not For Long

Now is the best time to get out and clean up your neighborhood. Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

After a seven year hiatus, I am a dog walker again. I lost my beautiful yellow labs, Misty and Reilly, in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and emotionally I haven’t been ready to get another dog. But low and behold, today, I find myself babysitting and walking my granddog, Rueben, to help out my son and his family.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t realize how much I had missed the dog walking. I enjoy the early morning romps, watching the sun come up and hearing the birds warble their serenades. The afternoon strolls re-energize me after a long day at work, and I am getting to know my neighborhood again. As I am walking, I’m seeing things along my street that I have been missing while driving in my car. The flowers in bloom make me smile, but the trash along the roadside makes me sad.

After the snow melts and before everything starts to green up, you really notice the litter. It has been bothering me so much that I decided I had to do something about it. So, on Mother’s Day, I bought some large garbage bags, put on a pair of work gloves, grabbed my “pick-up” tool and set out to clean up my street. I had a full bag after about 30 minutes of work and only covering about 150 yards. The trash I collected wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

In the past when I helped clean up roadsides, bottles and cans would have made up the majority of the trash. Not anymore. I found mostly paper waste and plastic bags. There were potato chip bags, candy wrappers, napkins and coffee cups. I found an assortment of plastic bags and Styrofoam, along with a vodka bottle and an empty engine oil container. The only cans and bottles I found were from sports drinks – no beer cans or water bottles.

Do you know what this means? The “Bottle Bill” is working. Formally known as “The New York State Returnable Container Act,” this law has “been the state’s most effective recycling and litter prevention program.” I found an article online dated June 2016 written by the New York Association of Counties which supported my assumptions about the effectiveness of the “Bottle Bill.”

Since its enactment in 1983, more than 90 billion containers have been returned and recycled! This law alone has helped keep millions of tons of plastic, metal and glass out of our state’s waste stream. It has also helped local governments and taxpayers save an estimated $300 million in landfill fees.

The original bill has been revamped several times, but one of the most significant changes came about because of water. Yep, the increase in the consumption of bottled water from 800,000 gallons in 1982 to 8,435,700,000 gallons in 2007 caused some problems with the disposal of all those bottles. The nickel deposit on water bottles was passed in 2009, and the rest is history.

If you are bothered by the amount of trash in your neighborhood and want to do something about it, I wouldn’t wait too much longer. Right now, before the bushes start to leaf out and the grasses start to grow, is the best time to pick up litter. It is more visible and easier to access; just be careful and wear protective gear. And, who knows – you might make a couple bucks along the way too!

See you on the trails and out on the water!

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.