Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Fuzzy Environmental Math Extrapolation

On a 6.5 mile walk along local, secondary roads yesterday I picked up only returnable/deposit containers. The photo shows the number of containers that were picked up along one side of the road. So ...40+ containers x 2 sides of the road = 80+ along a 6.5 mile section of rural roads or about 12.3 cans/bottles/mile x 5,100 miles* of roads in New York State = 62,700+ deposit/returnable container on NYS highways on Wednesday, March 11, 2009.

If we look at the United States, then 12.3+ deposit/returnable containers/mile x 161,400 miles* of USA highways = 2 MILLION deposit, returnable containers on the nation's highways or at $0.05/container x 2 MILLION returned deposite/containers = $100,000 nationwide. Not a quite the Federal Stimulus Package, but still a significant piece of change!

But what about all of those non-deposit containers such as bottled water, sports drinks that I would estimate would increase the above total by 40% or 2.7 MILLION containers along our nations' highways?

Yow! ... and that does not include the cigarette packages, jumbo plastic and styrofoam plastic drink containers, plastic bags, random fast food paper/plastic/tin foiled products, and other items I have to assume are intentionally dumped by passing vehicles. And all of these items are what I call "15 minute items" or things that you buy and discard after 15 minutes. They are certainly not examples of American manufacturing at it's best!

*Highway mileage source:

So as a good American in these depressed economic times, my government is encouraging me to spend and stimulate our economy? Sorry, I am inclined to save the money and make selective purchases of durable, essential, non-luxury, recyclable items that promote good EARTH stewardship.

Some other thoughts that I have:

  1. There is a considerable amount of drinking and driving taking place on our highways.

  2. What if ALL containers required a $1.00 deposit instead of a $0.05 deposit? How would that change "the picture" shown above?

  3. I would vote to pass the proposed "Bigger Better Bottle" bill now before our state legislature. I have already voiced my opinion with Assemblyman Bob Oaks and State Senator Michael Nozzolio

  4. Personally we have saved about $30 on are grocery bill since January 1st.

  5. What if communities began to organize/contract regional community members to voluntarily walk and clean their local roads sides? The benefits: a cleaner community; a raised public awareness of maintaining a better environment; improved cardio-vascular fittness; ... all at no cost to the community.


  1. I have never been able to understand WHY a person would even THINK of the "option" to throw waste out an automobile window!

    Jess and I did a 7-mile walk on local roads here in Huron, NY recently to gear up for some Adirondack hiking and she also counted the number of $.05 redeemable containers, then translating into relative "McDonald's value" ie. meal for 3 people...

    I am a supporter of your $1 deposit idea, Chendrashaker!

  2. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine as well! It looks like what I pick up on a daily basis while out getting exercise. I never leave home without my plastic bag to "collect" what I can along my route. P.S. - I'm all for raising the container deposit, too, if it helps people think twice about pitching trash out of their car windows!!!

  3. And when the township road crew comes by to mow thet shoulder, it's all plastic/aluminum confetti when they're done. Plus, if you do spend the time to pick up the scaps, you don't even get a nickle for your trouble.