The perfect ending to a hectic day: Yesterday, on the way home, I got behind one of those "magic" trucks.
You know the ones — the owner uses the bed as a trashcan for things they are too lazy to dispose of properly. The magic is that when they get to their destinations, poof, the trash disappeared!
Like many of these good citizens, the one in front of me shared two drink boxes and a red plastic cup in just a few miles on Islands Highway. I was awfully tired, but decided to follow her to her lair — I mean home. I pulled up when she parked and politely asked if she had realized trash had been blowing onto the road all the whole way home. She looked "blown away" and said that it was her boyfriend’s truck. Translation: She was not responsible. She had not adjusted the rearview mirrors, so didn’t notice.
I told her I followed because I was sure she would be concerned about the mess she made.
Over the years, I have accepted that some people do not have enough sense not to litter. About 10 percent of our population actually creates most of the litter. I know, you litterers thought that everybody does it, but you are wrong. Most people do not litter and most do not like litter.
Litter is not only ugly, it is unsanitary and can cause environmental and health problems. Cigarette butts, for example, along with plastics and other types of litter, contain toxic chemicals that can end up in storm drains and small waterways and, ultimately, contaminate our water.
Litter is also unsafe. Some trash and debris that fall from vehicles can cause hazardous conditions for the vehicles behind them. The worst case I’ve seen was years ago when a board flew off a speeding truck that was passing me. I was in a convertible and the board bounced off my windshield. I was lucky it did not hit me or break the windshield.
About half of all littering occurs when people deliberately toss items from their vehicles. The other half from debris that blows or falls out of vehicles.
So, for those of you concerned about things blowing out of your vehicles, here are suggestions for keeping litter off of our roads and your loads secure:
• Don’t use your truck bed as a trash can. All those things that you toss in there — beer cans, soda bottles, fast-food wrappers, leaves and other yard waste — really do not disappear. They are ending up on our roads, so stop it.
• If you create trash in your car, get a litter bag and use it. At Keep Liberty Beautiful, we will give you as many as you need. Do not toss stuff out the window. The road is not a trashcan.
• Keep your butts in the car. Cigarette butts are one of the most common items littered from vehicles. It can take years for butts to decompose, and when it rains, the 195 or so toxic chemicals in cigarettes make their way into our waterways. One more thing: Smoky the Bear wanted me to mention that throwing lit cigarettes out of cars increases the risk of wildfires.
• Secure your truck load. More serious problems arise when items such as ladders, mattresses, furniture and landscaping and construction debris, fall off of trailers or vehicles. Failing to secure a load is no accident. It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that loads are properly secured. If there are garbage bags, tie them off so items will not blow out. Put lighter-weight things at the bottom of the load, and make sure they are secure. Evenly distribute the load to prevent it from sliding. Don’t overload. Keep material level with truck bed or trailer unless tied down, netted or tarped. Large or heavy items should be firmly secured with straps or netting. Tie large items directly to your vehicle. String is not adequate. Don’t underestimate the power of wind at 50-60 mph. For loose or smaller items, such as tree clippings, a plastic or canvas tarp or netting can be used to keep items in place. Tie the tarp securely, or it might become road debris.
Reducing litter on our roadways is easy if we all think about others. Remember, it could be you next time behind one of those magic trucks.
Swida is the director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.