One man’s garbage (in a park), is everyone’s garbage

The Way I See It
By Daniela Ginta
March 20, 2017 - 5:00am

A while ago I brought up the high density of dog poo I see everyday during the walks with my pup through Peterson Creek. We had a few more dumps of snow since, and the winter’s magic act of covering the said mounds offered temporary visual tranquility. 

As of a few days ago, snow has melted, save for a few patches here and there, and a couple of trails still hiding under snow and ice on those parts where the sun doesn’t reach much. The melt came fast and there is but one word to sum up the aftermath: muck! Loads of it. 

Yes, the piles of old poo are resurfacing, and there are some new ones too. We’ve been over that. Yes, I am still hoping that conscience will prevail eventually in all dog owners. 

What’s worse though than a pile of mushy old poo by the side of the trail or in the middle of it? A pile of mushy old poo with a straw stuck in it, or some tattered plastic bag half showing from underneath the fecal remains. Gross you say? To say the least. All true. 

We can now add innumerable bits of garbage to the innumerable piles of poo, laying in the park where trees and bushes and the myriad seen and unseen animals should be the only inhabitants, with us humans and dogs as occasional (respectful) visitors. 

Having counted 25 pieces of trash yesterday and thoroughly disliking the sight  of them, I left home this morning with a plastic bag that I would collect the garbage in. The deep mud in some areas is so deep that pup and I could only walk on a few of our usual trails. Be it so, we did. 

I collected many things during the hour and a half we spent in the park. I’d say up to five pounds of trash, give or take. Sure, the soggy half-chewed tennis balls and the flattened old soccer ball weigh quite a bit. The items that I came across the most were straws, the clear plastic wrap straws come in, and candy bar wrappers. An old plastic rope, a broken reusable coffee mug and a few former Styrofoam items. A bag-full. 

Oh, and a few minced plastic doggy poo bags that were left in snow over the winter. Minced, not in any way degraded. I know some bags are said to be biodegradable, but here’s the catch: like with many other items that are now said to be biodegradable, like plastic bags or plastic food containers, certain conditions need to be met for the decomposition process to take place. Those conditions do not include ‘left in the street or by the side of a trail.’

I came across some trees that still have their Christmas decorations on. Some of them are made of plastic, while others are painted pine cones with some glued-on tiny pompoms. None are offensive the way trash on the ground is. Whether you agree with Christmas decorations on park trees or not, they are but someone’s intention of putting a smile on people’s faces. They are not that many in the first place, and one could argue a tree was spared while these few live ones were decorated. 

A few days later after the garbage collection morning, my husband and I found a syringe in the park, needle and all. It was unsettling to see it lying by the side of then trail, needle bent upwards. We picked it up and disposed of it, somberly aware of the lost innocence that had brought that syringe to where we found it.

The moral of the story: no matter how grey and drab the day, no matter how rainy and socked in, there is beauty to see wherever you are. A bare tree is beautiful in its dormancy awaiting spring. Tiny blades of grass sprouting remind of beginnings and the beautiful miracle of life. But, truth is, the sight of garbage obliterates much of that, and there too much trash wherever we look. Not just in the parks, but on the city streets and on people’s lawns too, that ones that border the sidewalks. 

We can do better. India recently banned the use of any disposable plastic in its capital and Kenya banned plastic bags altogether. Many of these countries have seen the worst of it and they are calling it quits when it comes to disposable plastic, a main source of garbage. 

Things don’t have to become really bad before we change the way we function as a society, though. And no matter how many bans we would have in place, in the end it is still your willingness and mine, and everyone else’s too, to keep public places clean. The social conscience dilemma again. I am still hoping it will prevail.