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Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- Pelarr Edwards with Boys Hope Girls Hope volunteers to help pick up trash along Lake Pontchartrain during the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's annual Beach Sweep in New Orleans, Saturday September 19, 2015. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's annual Beach Sweep is part of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. This year, LPBF received a Healthy Communities grant from Keep Louisiana Beautiful. This grant allows them to purchase their own LPBF bilingual storm drain markers to reduce litter that reaches the lake.

SOPHIA GERMER

Some folks say that a telltale sign that you are getting old, uh, or more mature, is that you begin to get irritated by more and more things that used to be the minor stuff. Loud music was OK back in the day when R&B music would bomb my car and my apartment. Now, when I hear a car thumping down the street, I get a little perturbed. Turn that stuff down, will ya?

Sagging pants. What the hell is on your mind with that? Who wants to see that? 

And, of course, there are belligerent children who can’t be controlled by parents in the supermarket. I have my thoughts: Just give me a couple minutes with that little so-and-so. Shoot, I would be like my grandmother, who was a biscuit over 100 pounds, but who would only have to glance my way, and all thoughts of bad behavior melted like butter in a hot skillet. Of all the things getting to me right now, it’s litter. Yes, I said it. It’s probably not on most folks' radar, but it’s on mine. Yeah, this proof that I’m skittering down the pathway headed to the land of nearly grumpy old men. 

Readers will probably think I have reached my 80th birthday (I really hope I see that one and more) when I mention that litter is high among my grumbling points. But it is really gnawing at me. Here’s the burning question I want to ask when I see Styrofoam plates and hamburger wrappers on the street: Isn’t there a garbage can where you came from, and won’t there be one at your destination?

Do these people throw trash on the floor in the bedroom because they are too lazy to walk to the garbage bag in the kitchen?

Look, I’ll make a bet with you. If you will be heading out in the next few minutes to the supermarket, the gas station, bus station, mall, dentist office, nail shop, designer clothes and handbag stores or exclusive jewelry stores, there will be a trash bin either inside or outside. You don’t have to use the street, sidewalk or highway.

It drives me nuts when I’m driving behind someone and out of the window flies drinking cups, sandwich wrappers, paper plates and other stuff. And, it gets my goat even more when I see it in subdivisions. This is a self-inflicted wound to a neighborhood, to a community, that just doesn’t have to be. This is a choice.

I saw this awesome anti-litter sign on the internet: “Why are you littering? a) I’m stupid. b) I don’t care about my city. c) Mommy still cleans up after me. d) All of the above.”

That sign should be placed around the city. But, like many other signs of value, it would have bullet holes in it pretty quickly, or some angry litter terrorist would tear it down and throw it in someone’s yard.

An organization called Keep Louisiana Beautiful says that the state has to spend $46 million a year in litter abatement. And that’s a $46 million losing battle. The group says to get their point across, anti-litter activists need to use education, enforcement (fines and threatened jail time), have proper resources available to combat litter and promote personal responsibility.

It’s the last one that’s the winner. Somehow, people have to buy into the idea of doing the right thing.

Here is a shocking pointe. The Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge, part of an over $200 million federally funded restoration project near Bayou Lafourche, was opened last year. The place looked spectacular. Guess what? At a clean-up there last month, volunteers collected 2 tons of trash. Just awful.

I want something done. Let’s take this litter thing seriously. I’m not just a grumpy old dude; I want to be a spark for change. As the old quote goes: “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something, then I realized, I am somebody.”

Come on people. Stop littering.

Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at epratt1972@yahoo.com.