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Cleaning as We Walk

A Reader Response

Gene DeJoannis

Thanks for publishing that story about individuals cleaning up on their walks. I have been doing this for several months. In our Manchester neighborhood, there are many roads that have no homes fronting on them. Some folks seem to think this makes them ideal places to discard trash. It angers me so much that I have been thinking of lawn signs to deter littering, but I don’t understand the motivation of those who do this, so I am not sure what the best strategy would be to deter them. Here are some for your amusement. If I were more sure they would be effective, I would have some printed.




  1. Your Trash Will Enter the Food Chain and Sicken Us All

  2. Please Respect our Community and Dispose of Your Trash at Your Home

  3. This Town Has Free Trash Pickup At Your House. Try It!

  4. Trash is an Eyesore that Lasts a Long, Long Time

  5. How Would You Feel If We Dumped Our Trash at Your House?

  6. Private Property. No Dumping

  7. Public Property. No Dumping

  8. Think Dogs Are Hard To Train? We Can't Seem to Teach Humans To Toss Their Trash at Home.

  9. Any Idiot Can Toss Trash Along The Road. It Takes Real Smarts to Put It In A Trash Can.

  10. May Your Travels Along Life's Roads Not Be Filled With Views of Trash

  11. Your Driver's License Does Not Give You Permission To Litter Our Town

  12. Litter If You Hate America (Manchester)

  13. Don’t Litter On Me (snake image)

  14. Santa Knows if You Litter!

  15. Your Litter Will Be DNA-Traced Back To You

  16. Don't Litter. Eyes Are Everywhere!

  17. Our Citizen Agreement -Town: Will Pick Up Your Trash At Your Home Each Week. -You: Will Put Your Trash In A Trash Bin & Leave it at the Curb. It's So Simple! What Part Don't You Understand?

  18. Don't Want Your Trash? Neither Do We. Be Kind & Take It With You. 

  19. Your Discarded Trash Will Not Make our Park More Attractive

  20. Please Don't Throw Trash In The Pond,  So Responsible Citizens Can Easily Clean It. 

  21. Fish Not Biting? Perhaps They Are Repelled By The Trash

  22. NO Permit Required To Fish Trash From The Pond

  23. Make America Clean Again. Pick Up Trash & Take It Home.

  24. Trash Bins Are In Parking Lot. Please Put All Trash There.

  25. Hate to See the Trash in Our Streets & Parks? Pick It Up! Be The Solution.

  26. Caution! Trash Pandemic Ahead. Keep Doors & Windows Closed.

  27. Please Don't Wreck Your Car While Trying to Throw Your Trash Out The Window.


Tips and Musings on Trash Pick Up

I always leave the house now with my trash tools: gloves, shopping bag and mechanical pickup tool. The latter is essential for efficient pickup. My regular bag is reusable, but I found the extra black trash bag along my route, and so was able to carry home twice as much. But I got a backache, so next time I was better prepared. On some routes I have to dump my collection at a fortuitous trash/recycle bin because I can carry no more. On one route I took a wagon on my third foray, as it was so heavy with trash (and still had to dump halfway through). I have now cleaned up that half mile long section of Land Trust property. But the trashers never stop.

This was half of what I collected. I dumped the other half at a helpful homeowner’s bins. I also found $15 in cash on that trip - I don’t know how cash gets discarded.


My pickup tool can grab a cigarette filter quite easily and I grab them if they are on the sidewalk or grass curb strip. Cigarette butts are considered a hazardous material and get flushed into watercourses during storms. Smokers are not thinking right about this. GI’s used to be taught to "field strip" their cigarettes: tear the paper, dump the tobacco on the ground, and roll the paper into a tiny ball that could be discarded to decompose. But the plastic filter had to be pocketed for later trashing at a bin.


I have learned to take a long stick when we walk around a pond or stream. For some reason, trashers find them irresistible, and it can be difficult to fish things out. The pickup tool is perfect when you fish the trash close to shore with a long stick. 


The next most common item are the nips you mentioned. On a 1.5 mile walk, I often find 20 or more of them if I have not cleaned that route in a week or so. I would like to see a 25 cent deposit on them! I once found 63 of them on a less than a mile walk and another 44 on the way back on the opposite side. I have sent pictures of my collections to our state legislators during the sessions, but we still have a crazy bottle law. Beer and soda have deposits. Wine, hard liquor, juice, and tea do not. Is there any logic to it? My garage is full of drink containers with 5 cent deposits until the return centers open again. I would like to see a 10 cent deposit on these to deter littering. I tell my state reps, but no action so far.


I have even found four to five unopened nips.


I am often thanked for my clean up efforts, but seldom copied. Indeed, you are the first person I have seen doing this, too. Thank you, and I hope your note will inspire lots of copy cats. With our bad “steady-habits" regarding trash, one cleanup a year during April is not enough. Until we can change the mindset of our trashers, we all need to be part of the solution, on every walk we take. Another wish of mine is the technology of a smart camera that could record drivers who throw trash from their cars.

Gene DeJoannis is a Sierra Club member and trash warrior.

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