Local cleanup yields bounty of fast-trash

We were among the hundreds of volunteers who collected trash around the city the other day as part of the national Great American Cleanup. Can’t really be sure how many of the 800 turned out because the weather was miserable – rainy and cool. We were soaked within 10 minutes anyway so we were happy to carry on.

Two of us were assigned a one-mile road section within Little Rock’s Boyle Park. We went up one side and down the other over the course of about three hours.

Amazing to me was that probably 80 percent of the debris in the three large bags of trash and recycleables we collected came from fast-food restaurants. We found little mustard and ketchup containers, burger wrapers, plastic foam cups, plastic straws and so on. Also interesting was the fact that most of the fast-trash came from one side of the road – the side leading from a cluster of burger joints up the road. (And it goes without saying that we found many beer and soft drink containers too.)

It might be fun to lay all the trash out on a tarp and separate it into piles for each of the restaurants. Then we might return it to each of the restaurants, saying, “We think your customers may have dropped these.” Didn’t do it of course, but a mass action along those lines might turn some heads at Burger Headquarters.

I also thought an intense cleanup of a road like that one might make a good field trip for an Anthropology 101 course. Archeologists and anthropologists are always fascinated by midden piles unearthed on digs. These are essentially trash dumps in settlements or temporary camps. Close analysis of the refuse tells you a lot about the people who stayed there and how they lived.

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