The yuck factor - a barrier to recycling and litter removal

A 7-11 coffee cup tossed aside.

Why don't you pick up trash?  

You are walking down the sidewalk, and there is a used 7-11 coffee cup on the ground, finished with its life as a one-time use receptacle.  It seems to have been stepped on, or driven over, and it has been there for awhile.

Or you see a yellow sandwich wrapper in the gutter as you cross the street, sans sandwich or with a bit of that sandwich still inside.  It's been crumbled into a ball, the color striking against the gray of the concrete.

Perhaps you notice the ubiquitous soda bottle on the grass, either forgotten, lost, or intentionally deposited for somebody else to deal with, ants scavenging for the remaining sugar molecules and oblivious to the PETE-1 recycling impression on the bottle.

Or you look down, and there is just a mix of something... undefinable, but it is clearly garbage.

Look, trash happens.  There is "unintentional" trash, when you lose something, or when animals or the wind take properly disposed of garbage and release these materials back into our streets and neighborhoods.

Then there is "intentional" trash (the majority of trash), when garbage is simply dropped to the ground, or tossed out the window.

I know I can't change the behavior of the intentional trashers, so my plea is limited to those of you good people who try to keep your neighborhoods clean.

Pick it up.  Dispose of it properly.  Recycle if possible.

Yuck!  That cup or bottle has touched someone's LIPS!!!  There is DIRT on that wrapping!!  You don't know WHERE that paper bag has been!

I get it.  There is a very real "yuck factor" that affects our brains.  For example, most of us shiver at the thought of drinking reclaimed sewage water. The "yuck factor" is our innate programming to avoid things that would cause our ancestors illness or death.

But today?  Really, failing to pick up a water bottle because it touched an unknown person's lips, but having no problem working your fingers through the sand at a beach where bird crap, toe jam, and other organics are part and parcel of the beach matrix, let alone the trillions of resident bacteria, and then simply brushing off the sand and reaching for your Doritos with those same fingers and popping those chips into your mouth is... sanitary?

Or when that fav food belongs to you, and falls to the ground, you really accept that "5 second rule"?

And have you ever thought that every bottle or can you get from the store has been touched already by somebody... the manufacturer, the shelf stocker, or even the roaches, ants, and mice that roam the warehouses when you're not looking?  

Take a deep breath, and challenge yourself.  Pick up that trash.  Commit to at least picking up 1 piece every time you walk outside, whether on a sidewalk or a parking lot or a beach.  Even if you are very conscientious, that unintentional trash still happens, so somebody is picking up your trash.  Return the favor, and pick up theirs.

Oh, and wash your hands afterwards.  On the go?  Carry hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol.

You will be amazed at the new spring in your step as you do this, every day.  You are part of the solution to this visual blight on the landscape, and there may even be a few animals you save along the way.

Don't forget the straws!

Big trash turns into little trash, which contaminates our oceans.


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