Keep America Beautiful says litter along our roads is declining.
The organization says it measured road litter in 45 metropolitan areas and 180 other locations nationally and also observed the behavior of 10,000 individuals across 10 states. The group says much work remains to be done, but the findings show the amount of litter has decreased by 61 percent across the country since 1968.
Those hippies must've been real pigs.
Take a look around. Does anyone really believe there was significantly more trash strewn around the environment 40 years ago?
"I find that difficult to believe based on what I see on our roads,'' said Jennifer Seney, the county's recycling coordinator and head of the local affiliate, Keep Pasco Beautiful.
She's not alone.
"I have not seen any improvement,'' said accountant Vicki Venable. She and a group of volunteers used to clean Old Pasco Road as part of the county's adopt-a-road program before she relocated her business from Wesley Chapel to Land O'Lakes.
In April 2008, she and 15 others picked up 51 bags of trash during the Great American Cleanup. The same day, Karen Pate, director of Crystal Springs Preserve, and 75 volunteers cleaned more than 8 tons of trash from the banks of the Hillsborough River in southeast Pasco.
"People aren't well-informed about how to get rid of (trash) free, or don't have a vehicle large enough to transport it, or can't afford to pay, or they're lazy,'' Pate said. "I'm not sure which.''
Over the years the volunteers have hauled a washing machine, sofas, computers, tires, mattresses, road signs, newspaper boxes, grocery carts, a front door to a house, porcelain toilets, sinks and ovens out of the water or off the banks.
A decline in litter?
"I haven't seen that trend over here,'' Pate said.
I'm glad I'm not the only skeptic. Friday morning, I walked about 300 yards along the eastern edge of Parkway Boulevard in Land O'Lakes and inventoried the debris. It was the third time in the past five years I've gone through this exercise, but it was worth repeating in light of the new survey findings.
Here's a sample of what was sitting on just one side of the road, north of the entrance to Cypress Creek Preserve:
Four empty boxes of Marlboro cigarettes, a White Owl cigar wrapper and a pack of Remington filter cigars; empty bottles of Bud Light, Bud Ice and Natural Light (Do litterbugs drink only Anheuser-Busch products?); and empty bottles or cans that had held soda, juice, energy drinks and bottled water. There were fast-food wrappers from McDonald's, Wendy's, Checkers, Chick-fil-A and Subway; an empty plastic container from the Wing House; and other food boxes that carried no identification.
Considering Central Pasco has no Checkers, Chick-fil-A or Wing House restaurants, it's clear we are importing trash.
There also was an adult-sized ski mitten, a condom wrapper and porn — two black-and-white prints of women from a Web site featuring "Mature Wives Picture Galleries.'' Somehow, I suspect images of naked cougars weren't lying around the side of the road in 1968.
In one respect there had been an improvement over past walks along this route: Nobody had tossed a television set, furniture or bags of garbage on the right of way.
Even with community education campaigns, a portion of the public that seems eager to embrace recycling and a state goal of nearly tripling Florida's recycling rate to 75 percent over the next 10 years, much must be done to alter public attitudes. How do you reach the Marlboro-smoking, beer-drinking fast-food munchers?
Venable, after bringing her grandchildren along on a cleanup, thinks it would be a sound civics lesson for all high school students to participate in litter removal. Pate tries to inspire a sense of stewardship by telling the public it's okay to pick up somebody else's trash.
In the meantime, there's always another cleanup scheduled for April.
"I look forward,'' Pate said, "to the day we won't have to participate.''