Two weeks ago, I posted this open letter to people who left their trash alongside the beautiful Cowpasture River.
Last weekend, I went back there to join a group of a dozen people who spent an afternoon collecting trash along the same river. We donned our “trash hunter” uniforms, gathered two orange trashbags each, and headed out into the bushes.
The bushes surrounding the campsites are actually the places where most of the trash is hidden: beer and soda bottles, a variety of plastic containers (including gallon size which equals 4 liters), plastic tampon applicators, crumbling aluminum foil, cardboard remnants from beer six-packs, plastic rings from beverage containers, flashlight battery, even a telephone battery…. amazing what people bring with them and then discard.
I came across a list indicating the life of various products before they decompose:
paper towels: 2 – 4 weeks
banana peel: 3 – 4 weeks
paper bag: 1 month
wool sock: 1 – 5 years
milk carton: 5 years
tin can: 50 years
foam cups: 50 years
aluminum can: 200 – 500 years
disposable diaper: 550 years
plastic bottles: 450 years
plastic bags: 200 – 1000 years
I don’t know how people calculated that plastic would last 500+ years considering plastic was not even invented until recently… In any case, these numbers are eye-opening. Do we really want to leave traces of our camping trip for generations to come?
After grumbling about every piece of trash I found and deposited in my trash bag, I began to shift my attitude. The day was windy but phenomenally beautiful. The river’s green water was framed by flowering shrubs such as dogwoods and pink azalea.
Wildflowers bloomed everywhere…
and I got to be outside with a bunch of like-minded people enjoying the scenery and getting some exercise. In the process, we left the place much cleaner than we found it. Here is our combined “loot:”
Yes, that was a frying pan in there!
And here is the entire crew that committed their Sunday afternoon to cleaning up along the river:
The river we now call Cowpasture was originally named “Wallawhatoola” by Native Americans. It means “The River That Bends.” Here is to a beautiful Wallawhatoola!
For more posts about “rivers”, see Ailsa’s River Travel Theme.