The Coast News Group
Photo by Chris Ahrens

The low cost of a free ride

“Litter is an injustice to nature.”

— Handwritten sign on Beacon’s bluff, circa 1970

There are very few things I would get into a fistfight for. In order they are: 1) Someone threatening a friend or family member. 2) Someone stealing or damaging my personal property. 3) Someone trashing the air, water, or ground.

In my time I have thrown trash back into someone’s vehicle, chased down someone who threw a lit cigarette from a car, confronted someone who broke a beer bottle on my driveway. 

I have also reprimanded someone using vulgarity in front of my grandkids because what exits the mouth affects the immediate environment. (I confess to being somewhat hypocritical in this regard since I sometimes let certain choice words fly. My apologies to anyone I may have offended in this regard.)

Litter is lazy, ignorant and rude. It is also an invasion of our common property and a type of theft in a way. Nobody has any right to damage the world we all share.

One of the latest air pollutants is spray-on sunscreen. It hits the body, which is the intended recipient’s business, and enters the air, which is everybody else’s business. We don’t need sunscreen in our lungs.

While it is estimated that it takes plastic bags 20 years to decompose and settle, plastic bottles can take up to 450 years. And fishing lines take around 600 years.

But researchers fear that plastic never fully decomposes, but gradually turns into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic.

A trip down any aisle in any store illustrates the problem. The floor, ceiling and in many cases the walls all contain some form of plastic. Everything from soda to shampoo has a plastic container.

Fruits and vegetables are bagged in plastic and, to take it all home, we have a plastic bag. Kudos to those who use their own recyclable bags, especially those who employ cotton drawstring baggies to carry produce.

Like many of you, my wife, Tracy, and I attempt to decrease the amount of plastic we use. At one point, we even tried eliminating the use of plastic entirely. That proved impossible when we installed a new floor in one of our bedrooms.

Everything from the tiles themselves to the wrapper they came in was made of plastic. And that everything will someday occupy a landfill or become a deadly floatation device in the ocean.

A quick look around our home reveals that the Venetian blinds, the workout equipment, the chairs, most fabrics, picture frames, cat toys, litter boxes and parts of the dishwasher are all made from items that will be around in some form forever.

Removing pollutants from the environment is a massive task, so big in fact that we cannot leave it to any government to fix. We must tackle this one ourselves.

There are the obvious solutions, like educating our kids in environmental practices, never littering and always bringing our own cloth bags for groceries.

This is our planet to enjoy, and with that enjoyment comes a responsibility. Thanks for caring.


Chris Ahrens’ latest passion project, the YouTube channel Godngangsters, can be viewed at: