I think I’ve mentioned some of this before. But with the return of warm weather and outdoor activities gearing up again, it needs mentioning again. So bear with me.
How many of you can remember when you could buy a really nice house for about $25,000? Or how about when you could buy a really good car or truck for under $5,000 at any dealership you visited?
How many of you can recall the days when a simple candy bar was as large as these modern-day King Size candy bars but only cost a fraction (one thin dime) of what one of those large bars cost now?
When was the last time you can recall not having to wait on your tax refund to buy groceries that can fit nicely in one or two bags with room to spare, or when you could actually get a cheeseburger, fries, and milkshake for less than a buck?
And all you smokers out there: When was the last time you could buy brand name cigarettes like Marlboro, Winston, and Camel for a dollar less per entire carton than you can a single pack of off-brand cigarettes today?
I can remember these examples and many more. But if you’re an X-Gen or Millennial and can’t, that’s perfectly okay. Nostalgia is very subjective; that is, the only difference between your fond memories and mine is our age. But I digress.
Perhaps it is because the Mingo County Commission recently received a grant whose specific use is earmarked for litter cleanup. Perhaps it is because law enforcement in both Mingo and Pike counties is making a concerted effort to crack down on the violators and both these things also prompted me to remember.
But the truth is the rate of incidence that a great many people in our area continue to litter, coincidentally enough, brings back another positive remembrance for me.
I’ll bet if some of you in and around my age really think hard most of you would be able to remember the days when soft drinks came in returnable glass bottles for which you redeemed anywhere from three to five cents a bottle when you took them back to the store for reuse.
Instead of buying beverages in cans and plastic for which you get nothing today and you simply toss away, in days gone by beverage companies actually made it worth your monetary while to be tidier and cleaner at a time when you weren’t expected to be as tidy and clean as you are expected and, in fact, is much more necessary of you today.
I’d also be willing to bet some of you can remember when milk came in biodegradable paper cartons instead of the insoluble plastic jugs that seemingly these days, in far too many instances, end up over the hill or floating down our creeks and rivers.
And speaking of groceries, I’m sure you can also remember when the items you purchase were placed in a brown paper bag instead of these plastic things you get now; these gray and white and pink Walmart-type bags that, again, even a visually impaired person can easily see hanging from tree limbs along the aforementioned creeks and rivers after a high water event.
And that’s the rub. If you can remember these things then you can also remember when our hills and hollows weren’t needed nearly as much for landfills, and when our creeks and rivers didn’t represent stand-ins for them every time it rains and fill up with every conceivable type of litter known to man.
Yes, like now there was too much littering back in the day. But here’s the irony: Even though there was more of an excuse for roadside littering and illegal dumps back then due to a lack of garbage service in the rural areas like ours, because of things like returnable bottles and more biodegradable packaging, the problem still wasn’t nearly on the scale then as it is today.
Let’s face it. We are doing irreparable harm to our homes and to ourselves at a time in our history when we should have far less excuse and can less afford to do so.
Which leads me to ask another obvious question: Whose bright idea was it in the first place to switch from using returnable glass bottles and biodegradable brown paper bags to those made with material that wouldn’t self-destruct in a landfill — heck, in a blast furnace — if the world continues on for several millennia more?
Okay, what’s done is done.
But now that we know the environmental and even health hazard all this has and continues to create, why in Heaven’s name do we not return to the days when being at least a little “greener” obviously caused less problems for our creeks and rivers and valleys, even for us?
I find it simply incredible that some people find it much more difficult to bag their empty milk jugs and the like and let the trash man pick it up — a mandatory service they’re paying for anyway, at least here in Pike County — than it is to step out onto the porch and attempt to chuck the lot of it toward a nearby creek or river.
I realize there’s no silver bullet, nothing alone that’s going to keep our countryside and streams from looking like mini landfills.
But I’m of the mind there are things we can do to at least knock a dent in the problem. And collectively we’d better start making use of them. Either that or begin looking to make new remembrances on another planet.