Chance Encounter

I’ve neglected this blog, the reasons for that being legion, but the primary reason being that we’ve moved, but I’ve continued the habit of picking up after litterbugs.


It’s ingrained.

Now that we’ve settled in, I’ve selected my own personal ‘adopt a spot’ litter location, across the street from the new home.  People like to park there at night, and there’s the usual selection of empty beer bottles and cans,

0302160959b 0302161006d

energy drink cans and convenience food packaging,





cigarette butts and packaging,


baggies, candy wrappers and miniature liquor bottles.





Y’know, judging by the litter on our roadsides, we’re a selfish and decadent society.

The spot’s looking cleaner already and pretty soon I’ll have to forage further afield to find filth.  But today, I had gardening on the agenda and that task led to a meeting with a fellow traveler, the second such meeting I’ve had since we relocated.  As follows:

I was driving out to the town compost facility this morning and what do I see?  A lady with a pick stick in one hand, and a repurposed grocery store bag in the other, working her way through some litter alongside the railroad right of way.  I couldn’t help myself.  I pulled over and said hello.  And when I thanked her for what she was doing, she said something like: “Well, we live right here, and I get tired of looking at the mess so it’s not much more effort to pick it up as it is to look at it.”

Yep.  That about sums it up. I told her that I do the same thing, and I mentioned the possibility of having an organized cleanup in the area.  While the lady was polite, I didn’t get the feeling that she was immediately interested.  I said nice to meet you and drove off to continue what I’d been doing.

I’m thinking of starting a little facebook page to network with other residents of the area – to organize a bit, and do some cleanups.  I think I’ll draw a good number of interested people, and in any case a number of good and interesting people.  We could do ‘flash’ cleanups – just descend on a spot and clean it and leave.  There are quite a few retirees around here who might just be willing.

Meanwhile, I’m scouting equipment


and continuing to take pictures of roadside litter.  Perhaps in search of those elusive grocery store plastic bags that people want to ban so much.  Wait, here’s one…er, forget it.  Just another smiley bag.


Not seeing them.  Are you?  Maybe it’s time for another post on that topic.


International Coastal Cleanup

That time again, and the local upland fresh water preserve is in need of a good thorough picking.  The ICC is the same day as our local Community Watch cleanup, so it’s shaping up into a community-wide cleanup effort.  We have a month to hype it, and I hope that we can draw some new volunteers along with the reliable people we always count on.

In an effort to get the message out in new ways, I have repurposed some of the lawn signs that got picked up at prior cleanups.  I whitewashed them and am planning to letter them with a simple message, something like: Community Cleanup Today, 9-11 am.  I’ll place them at strategic spots the day before.  Maybe we can draw some people who aren’t on the facebook group or who haven’t been in the loop for cleanups in the past.

A recent spate of illegal dumping has had me in contact with the town.  I emailed the top elected official and included photos of the trash, asking that the town pick up the dumped material and request that the police conduct some directed overnight patrols.  I got a very positive response, and the dumped stuff was picked up within a few days.   This happened at the same location where we conduct the ICC each year.   There are other cleanups done at that location, which is a magnet for dumpers and needs sustained attention to stay neat.

Some Independent Work: Sunrise Highway Service Road

I had to take the car to the nearby shop for some minor work, and so decided to do a bit of litter cleanup while walking home. The strip of roadway that I picked clean is about two blocks long and adjacent to our State highway, it gets a lot of debris blown up on the grass.  I cleaned it last Fall and it took quite a while: hours, actually, and three trips.  It seemed to me at the time that the State had neglected that spot for a while, it was full of garbage.

Sometimes it takes pressure from citizen activism for the municipalities to actually clean certain area, other times the municipality simply won’t do it – Like the stretch of Commack Road that I’ve adopted.  That tract of woods hadn’t been cleaned in decades. It’s now clean.

I filled a 30 gallon kitchen trash bag in about a half hour of work.  Ironically, I was driving down the service road about two hours later (after picking up the car) when I saw the state workers picking up litter just a quarter mile further along the same stretch of roadway.


Well, I saved them some work.

Organized Cleanup Season: Brook Street

I’ve been off this blog for a couple of weeks but I’ve not been idle.  Since spending some time stuffing envelopes at Keep Islip Clean last month, it’s been one cleanup after another.

In a previous post, I photographed the strip of Brook Street that is the original cleanup spot that was adopted by KIC 26 years ago. Pre-cleanup it was filthy.  I couldn’t resist: I removed about fifteen pounds of litter including enough empties for a bar, and a cordless drill complete with battery. It never hurts.

Last Saturday was the cleanup.  With 37 other volunteers present and the street closed by the auxiliary cops, we cleaned the entire quarter mile stretch of roadway and woods adjacent to the County Preserve. Someone brought hip-waders and cleaned out the stream as well.

The Problem with Saving the Bees

Not a bit about litter, but informative and instructive science gets me every time. ‘Saving’ the bees… .

The Liber Ero Blog: Reports from the front lines of conservation biology

IMG_1215 A native bumble bee (photo Sheila Colla).

By Sheila Colla

I’ve been researching pollinator declines over the past decade. It has been encouraging and inspiring to see my chosen subject matter go from completely off the general public’s radar to one of the most important environmental issues of our time. These days, it would be difficult to go a full week without seeing something alarming about pollinator declines in a newspaper or social media headline.

In general, it is great that the public and policy makers are starting to appreciate the insect pollinators and the ecosystem service they provide. Heck, even Obama himself wants to help! These little creatures feed on nectar and pollen and move pollen grains from flower to flower while foraging. This behaviour allows gene flow to occur among plants, which then leads to the production of seeds and fruit. Given the estimates that over 3/4 of…

View original post 627 more words

Brook Street Litter

Upland freshwater marsh, a stream, a pond, woods and one macadam road running through it.  Everyone in town knows the Brook Street Preserve.  At first glance, it looks idyllic, beautiful even, and it is.


Freshwater pond in the rain
West branch of the Orowoc Creek, from Brook Street looking north, upstream

You have to slow down and look a little closer before you see the mess.

‘Out the window’ litter, mostly

As with any out-of-the-way wooded area in a busy suburb, the Suffolk County owned Brook Street preserve is a litter magnet.


A neighbor placed this convenient trash can at an entrance to the preserve.

It requires constant attention to keep clean. Brook Street has been the focus of Keep Islip Clean sponsored cleanup efforts for decades. Year in and year out, Spring and Fall, the cleanups continue.  The Middle School ‘KIC’ team is the sponsor. There are lots of volunteers, official and unofficial. I pick at it throughout the year.

The king of discarded emptys




Convenient hip-pocket sized vodka doser


Done with that? Out the window.


Black plastic bags are the mobile drinkers choice


One of many plastic bags tangled in the brambles




Glass shards litter the overpass above the Orowoc Creek


Plastic bottle, bowling ball (?) and some oranges litter the stream bed of the West Orowoc, south of Brook Street. It’ll require a volunteer or two with hip waders to get to this spot. That should be fun.

The cleanup date is April 18th, a Saturday, and I’m planning to join in.  I’m also trying to drum up some more volunteers from the neighborhood to show up.  This is not an easy thing to do, since Saturday mornings are busy times for all of us. But there are always the few reliable volunteers who come out for most of the cleanups, and you often get a neighbor or two who pop in to help.  There are seldom a huge group of volunteers showing up, but in my experience there are always enough.



Got 24 Electronic Devices?

Various media outlets are sharing a startling fact from the Consumer Electronics Association: the average American household owns 24 electronic devices. Add this uncomfortable fact from the Environmental Protection Agency: Americans dispose of or recycle 142,000 computers and 416,000 mobile devices every day. Obviously, used electronics are a fast growing component of our national waste stream.

Unlike most of the stuff that I deal with on my litter pick-up walks, electronics are not getting thrown out the car window. In fact, a lot of used electronic devices get into the general trash stream where they do not belong; they should be getting recycled.

Sure, some people recycle their ewaste, and most municipalities provide some method for residents to properly dispose of used electronics, but a lot of it gets tossed because the public, by and large, just doesn’t know what to do.  Ewaste recycling efforts aren’t high profile enough yet.

This is actually a rather important environmental and sustainability concern.  There’s an awful lot of recyclable stuff in our modern electronic devices, including rare earth metals. Rare earth metals aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, (incidentally, they aren’t actually all that rare) but the process of mining them, like most other mining processes, is dirty and exploitative: that’s a primary reason why we want to reuse them. Think of the rare earths as analagous to a nasty metal that I blogged about in a prior post: lead. In this country, we don’t really need any more dirty lead mining and smelting because we recover most of the waste lead and reuse it.

Just like lead recycling, concerted efforts to reuse the components of our old electronics could help to reduce the need for rare earth mines and smelting works. Unfortunately, we aren’t recycling our electronics: at least not enough.

According to the PBS piece (above linked), there are 500 million old cell phones sitting in drawers, and that’s just the cell phones.    I’m sure nobody actually counted those cell phones, it’s an estimate, but this is a portion of the waste stream that can rather easily be reduced and exploited. We’ve got a kaleidoscope of electronic devices these days, and they don’t last all that long.

Honestly, how many old electronic devices do you have hanging around the home? They’re legion in my home. How many have you thrown out with the trash? Too many, I’m guessing.  Landfills aren’t the proper ending place for ewaste.

As is par for government problem solving efforts everywhere, public information campaigns and efforts to increase the recycling of electronics are behind the curve; but they’re improving.

Locally, Islip Town recognized the problem and has responded with a time honored answer: they’ve designated an ewaste day. That’s a dedicated day when you can throw out used electronics: you can leave used electronics out at the curb on the last Wednesday of the month. They’ve also added ‘ewaste’ drop off containers at some public facilities and posted information about the topic on the Town’s official website:


The Town is now collecting E-Waste (computers, monitors, printers, electronic games, etc.) curbside at no charge to residents. Residents are encouraged to bring electronic material in need of disposal to the curb with their recyclable materials on the last Wednesday of each month. Residents may also drop off material at the  Multi-Purpose Recycling Facility located on Lincoln Avenue in Holbrook, Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 2:45 pm.

This is a big improvement over the previous recycling rules, where you had to bring your old computers and electronics to the recycling center, fill out paperwork, and leave it there. Few residents bothered.

The other shoe that needs to drop is a well purposed public information campaign that highlights the importance of recycling our growing stream of used electronics. This should be a locally driven nationwide effort.