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Carl Wernicke: I Hate Litter


I generally avoid using the word “hate” given its strong connotations. But as WUWF  listeners and readers of my former News Journal column know, I really do hate  litter. I hate it so much that I have spent hundreds of hours picking up litter on roadsides, the beach and from creekbeds.

Littering just strikes me as such a waste. When I lived on Garcon Point I couldn’t understand why people trashed Mary Kitchens Road, which is otherwise a pretty little country road marked by trees, wildflowers and horse barns.

Some litter I at least understood; people didn’t want the police, parents or spouse finding their car littered with beer cans or whiskey bottles. But otherwise, why not just take it home and drop it in the trash can?

It seems like such a disconnect: someone who doesn’t want his car messed up with fast-food bags dumps them on the roadside, presumably where he can see it every time he passes.

Anyway, for years I regularly cleaned the shoulders of Mary Kitchens Road, and for years people regularly littered it again.

Now comes another maddening incident that drives me to cry out. Or at least whine a bit.

Last week the News Journal reported that the City of Pensacola was closing two recycling drop-off sites because people insist dumping unwanted items. Despite the signs prohibiting it, people took advantage of this public service to unload mattresses, old furniture, even household garbage.

In other words, they were littering sites set up to help eliminate trash.

It’s particularly dispiriting because it shows the propensity of people to take advantage of others. The sites were set up to make it easier for people to dispose of recyclables, and nothing was asked of them other than to respect the restrictions on what, and what not, to dispose of there.

Yet enough people abused this service to render it unusable to everyone else.

These days with all of the options available for getting rid of stuff, going to the trouble to illegally dump it where they were specifically asked to not dump it seems going above and beyond the normally low standards of so much of the public.

I’ll just it put it down as another mystery about my fellow humans that I can’t fathom. It’s on a par with the mystery of why so many people who appear to love the outdoors are so willing to trash it. I once thought it would be satisfying to carry a garbage bag to clean up local creeks while canoeing, but it got to the point that there was so much to collect I couldn’t enjoy the trip. And if I just filled up a bag and tried to ignore the rest, I couldn’t help but fixate on every can, bottle and fast-food wrapper that I left.

Anyway, my wife suggested putting up cameras at the recycling sites and vigorously prosecuting the offenders. I’m all for it. Make them pay for being too cheap to use the landfill.

Meanwhile, I realize that complaining to the WUWF listenership is the wrong audience, since I doubt many of you are responsible for this. As soon as I can find a Facebook or Instagram page for local litterers, I’ll post this screed there.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.