Monday, May 20, 2024

I’m coming clean: I hate trash.

At least twice a day, my dog Daisy and I (poopy bag in hand), do our daily strolls to the parks around the Peabody school on Rindge Avenue. With her hypervigilant nose, Daisy sniffs out every bit of windswept trash wantonly strewn on and around the school grounds. It’s the detritus of kid-commercial food worthy of Michael Pollan’s scrutiny and wrath. Ground underfoot, frozen, sanded and de-iced are wrappers, containers and empty bottles, as well as a robust assortment of discarded paper, lost pencils and pens. Tail wagging, Daisy sniffs chip bags, candy wrappers, giant Dunkin’ Donut cups, flavored energy drink bottles, soda cans, gum wrappers, plastic forks, cigarette boxes, plastic bags and Styrofoam food containers.

Our trash collectors are hard-working and diligent, but not always the tidiest. Trash does spill when barrels are upended and emptied on collection day. But the trash I am talking about doesn’t just accumulate where the bins are. It surrounds the school like a moat.

I concede, with Daisy’s approval, I am a trash hound. I not only pick up loose trash while walking to and from the parks, but I expect the same from others. (Just ask my kids.)

One day, while walking on the Yerxa side of the Peabody, this boy tosses his empty juice pouch to the ground. If he had extended his arm, he could have swooshed it into the trash can. Incredulous, I stop, as does Daisy. He catches our slack-jawed stare. “Please pick it up,” I say. We each stand our ground. It was a showdown — some kind of macho cool trying to best the mama in me. His eyes trained on mine, he shuffled; he stared; he walked in a circle. Finally, he bent over, picked up the empty pouch, and threw it into the trash. Triumphantly Daisy looked at me, wagged her tail, and we moved on.

But since when did throwing out trash become a power struggle? Why do kids, or adults for that matter, think it okay to just toss trash on the ground? Where is the pride?

I think it’s time for good citizenry. I offer the greenest, cheapest, most efficient, best teaching-moment solution available: Designate trash pickup days. Why not assign the kids to patrol their schoolyards and pick up all the trash they thoughtlessly tossed to the ground? Protective gloves and paper bags are recyclable and cheap. Pick up trash once a month; once a week; assign by grade? It’s a nasty job that I bet will get old pretty quickly.

As Daisy would say: If you don’t like picking up trash, don’t toss it on the ground.


Fran Cronin, North Cambridge dog walker