Reflections on the Catskill Roadside Cleanup

Over 35 community members participated in picking up litter along our county, town and village roadways last weekend. There is a noticeable improvement to our roads when I drive around this week, compared to last. It’s amazing how a few dedicated individuals can make such a huge difference to the appearance of our local landscape.

Special thanks go to members of Cultivate Catskill, The Fortnightly Club, Plant Palenville and the Bank of Greene County who all contributed to the success of this event. In addition, the Town and Village of Catskill all played a key role in helping to plan, publicize and participate in this cleanup. A special thanks goes to the Catskill Highway Department and Department of Public Works for their help in disposing of all the filled trash bags. It truly was a team effort.

As I walked along a stretch of Cauterskill Road picking up trash, some random thoughts came to mind. We’ve all been reading a lot about how plastic is polluting our waterways, including the oceans. It was amazing to me how much plastic finds it way to our roadsides…. including those right next to the many creeks in the area. Plastic water bottles contribute to much of the litter as do plastic bags (Walmart and Price Chopper seem to be favorites), fast food cups, tops of coffee cups and the occasional salad container. If left long enough outside, the plastic starts to disintegrate with these smaller pieces ultimately finding their way into our waterways. Thus picking up litter is not only helping to improve the appearance of our roadsides but also reducing the amount of plastic that eventually finds its way into our creeks.

It was also astonishing how many glass bottle and cans were added to our trash bags during the cleanup. Corona and Budweiser Beer were clear favorites along with multiple brands of soft drinks. Drinking while driving is a clear problem, especially along our roads with lots of hills and curves. That said, it completely puzzles me why these cans and bottles are not properly disposed of instead of thrown out of a car window or pickup bed or simply left on the roadsides. The volume of this debris is so great that one has to conclude that this disposal approach was intentional versus accidental. What baffles me is what these individuals must think happens to these items. Don’t they see the clutter that is created? Why is it expected for someone else to dispose of them? Keeping a small trash bag in their vehicles would be a simple answer to contain the ’empties’. Another option is to increase the bottle and can deposit to something more than a nickel. That would make it more worthwhile to return bottles and cans rather than littering or dumping them.

Other ‘intentional’ trash we found included a tire from a riding mower or small tractor, carpet remnants, car brake shoes, fluorescent light tubes, and insulation. These items were clearly not left accidentally. Our roadways are not dumping grounds. It is relatively inexpensive to bring these items to the transfer station to be disposed of properly. Homeowners doing renovations should ensure that their contractors dispose of materials properly — which does not mean dumping them on rural roadways.

Finally, as you might expect we found many cigarette lighters and innumerable empty cigarette packs. Newport was the most popular brand. Based on this volume, it’s evident that many individuals have not yet gotten the message that smoking causes cancer. While they have the right to smoke, they do not have the right to litter. And those that regularly throw out their empties should feel a responsibility to help to clean up their garbage by participating in future roadside cleanups.

While considerable progress was made, there are still many roadsides that still need attention. If every homeowner took the time to pick up litter on their property and maybe even on the shoulder of the road across the street, it would go a long way to keep Catskill looking great — as a place that the community takes pride in.

Until next time……

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