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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Litterbug smokers on sharp decline in East Warren

By Robin McDermott

What a bold statement to make! What evidence could I possibly have that proves this true? Well, as any dedicated Green Up Vermont volunteer with a regular beat will tell you, there are definite trends in the trash that you pick up that distinguishes one year from the next. 

In our stretch from Mobus Road in Waitsfield to Cider Hill Road in Warren we have actually given each year's theme a name: 2005 was the year of the granola bar; 2006 was dedicated to Vermont craft beers; and then in 2007 we saw a big swing in beverage choices as the litterbugs showed a preference for wines that came in bottles of all shapes and sizes, but the little airplane sizes seemed most popular. It was clear that the economy was on a downturn last year in 2008 when we noticed a lot fewer wine and microbeer bottles and a lot more Budweiser cans -- the big 24-ounce size. 

We declare 2009 the year of the potato chip and Green Mountain coffee. While we came across a fair share of beer cans and bottles, litterbugs this year demonstrated a preference for Twisted Tea, Seagram's Ice and Pepsi. 

Every year there is something that we run across that we have to think twice about before we pick it up; for example, a used condom. This year's questionable item was a fully used baby diaper that had been sitting in the ditch so it was water logged and starting to shred. Yuk!

A little further down the road we found the remnants of a complete McDonald's meal that I suspect was purchased in Randolph, devoured by East Granville and then held onto by the litterbug until he or she decided it was time get rid of it right across the street from Billy Brauer's studio.

We also give a fictitious prize to the person who deposited the most contradictory litter of the year. The 2009 prize goes to the person who threw out the EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice Bar wrapper. According to the label it contains "Nothing artificial! No additives!" And, 2 percent of their sales "go to wildlife." Now there is a parent who cares about the health of the earth for the EnviroKidz generation.    

Green Up Vermont Day is one of those things that is fun to do and makes you feel good, but there is also a certain measure of sadness that comes with the task of picking up other people's trash. First, it is sad that a person today would actually think it is OK to open up the window of the car and throw out an empty coffee cup or snack food wrapper. It is also sad though to think of the energy and precious oil that went into producing the wrappers, plastic containers and bottles only for them to end up strewn along the roadside. This is something to think about when purchasing food products; is there another way to purchase a product so that it doesn't require so much packaging that will eventually become trash? Perhaps you can buy more from the bulk bins, purchase soda in larger-sized containers, use thermal commuter coffee mugs or buy food from local farmers who don't need to use as much packaging because their products don't have to withstand a harsh shipping environment.

Still, it is fun to make a game of trying to understand the patterns in litterbugging from year to year. Just as we got near the end of our route, we picked up a piece of trash that held the answer to why we saw so few cigarette packages and cigarette butts this year. It was an empty package of Nicorette gum!

McDermott lives in Waitsfield.


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