Recently I joined members of the North End Ski Club to pick up litter along Hwy M east of Cable, WI. The Club took on the responsibility of cleaning litter on a 2.5 mile stretch of the highway from Cable to S. Lake Owen Rd. that was previously monitored by the Lake Owen Camp. The camp closed, however, and this stretch of roadway had not been assigned stewards for about 2 years.
Club members braced themselves for a mountain of garbage. National statistics estimate that one mile of highway typically contains 16,000 pieces of litter! It costs the US $11.5 billion every year to clean up litter – a figure 10 times more than the cost of disposing that same amount of trash.
There was an abundance of cigarette butts and, oddly, plastic Tiparillo draws. While aluminum can sizes are jumbo these days, there were few cans and only a couple beer cans and beer bottles. Plastic bottles were more numerous than cans. There were no full bags of garbage tossed in the ditches, and I didn’t find any plastic grocery bags. Yes, there were candy wrappers and chip bags – but not many.
All in all, for 2 years-worth of roadside litter – it really wasn’t much and certainly nowhere near 16,000 pieces per mile. When I travel in the southern US states, litter is an obvious eyesore along the roads.
So – Good for Us! People here seem to respect the Northwoods landscape. Littering is not a big problem. But – of course, we could do better and shoot for Zero Litter along Hwy M.