Daily walks have been the saving grace of many people's quarantine routines, myself included. But I wanted to do something that would make mine really worthwhile so one day I grabbed my gloves and a bag before heading out to the familiar streets. Living in a small town, I wasn't expecting to come back with a bag full of litter. Yet, I did. I filled that bag up so quickly it really opened my eyes to the amount of litter around my town. After a few days cleaning up my neighbourhood side streets, I decided to challenge myself to pick up litter for a whole month.
A few streets turned into more and then those streets turned into bigger areas and bigger bags. I targeted more areas such as my town's local lake and shopping centres. I found an alarming amount of litter in the areas that were meant to be spots to appreciate the beauty of nature. Around the local lake I collected over 250 cigarettes, which could have easily been eaten by an animal or washed into our waterways. A local waterfall was also on the list of places to clean up as it is a popular summer hangout spot. Sadly, the beautiful falls were covered in alcohol bottles including broken glass.
I want to urge everyone to do more than just appreciate nature, but also respect it. There's no reason you can't hold onto your trash until you get home to properly dispose of it, or better yet find waste free ways of living!
Roadsides were the most saturated spots for litter. Once I started really looking around I noticed how unbelievably dirty one county road was. It was a long road on a steep hill. Once I set out to clean it, I was completely floored because there was about two times more trash hidden under the blanket of leaves. I truly cannot put into words the amount of trash that was there. After several hard days, I cleaned up the road to the best of my abilities, which measured up to about nine large garbage bags and several regular plastic bags! It was a daunting task, but it was very rewarding to see the hill cleaner.
During the month I kept track of the most common items collected. The number one item I picked up the most was alcohol bottles. Cigarettes and juuls were the second most common litter I collected. Other common items included fast food containers, plastic bottles/bags, and styrofoam. This is a strong reminder that our daily habits contribute to the future we will live in, we may use these items for just a few minutes but they exist for years afterwards.
My town may just be a minuscule section of the world, but no action is too small to make a big difference. Whether you set out with a large bag or just pick up three pieces of litter, it all matters. Of course, please take all precautions necessary during this time by wearing a mask and protective gloves. I hope that this sets an example for how we can improve our habits and mindsets to benefit the world and ourselves.
Written by Angelica Pasuqali
I want to thank all the friends (Sara, Melissa, and Kylie) that joined me throughout the month to tackle this effort as well as my boyfriend Jacob, who helped maintain a level of safety throughout the daily ventures.
You can follow Angelica's environmental page here.
You can also watch Angelica talk more about the experience here.
Angelica Pasuqali is an artist and activist. For over five years, Angelica has been using photography to translate powerful media that educates and influences others on social and global issues. Environmental protection is very important to Angelica and that flows into her personal life as a climate activist and environmentalist. She has been on a low-waste sustainability journey for about three years now. Angelica cares about the planet so much because every issue can almost always be traced back to our earth as well as solved by our earth.