June 1, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Throwaway society
By†Jody Reese

Manchester has a lot of problems that no one asked for and that canít be solved right away. But one problem we donít need and that we can all help solve is trash.

Despite the chamber of commerce brochures, Manchester is a trashy city. Litter is a common sight. Garbage is everywhere. From cigarette butts to discarded living room sets, residents often treat city streets as if they were narrow paved landfills.

While tossing trash into the street may bring a sort of breezy satisfaction of the moment, it has serious long-term effects. Not only does it uglify Manchester, but the persistent presence of trash begins to affect peopleís behavior and attitudes, and not for the better.

When trash is everywhere, people feel less motivated to care about their surroundings, and from there, things go downhill fast. Property isnít respected, vandalism rises, and thereís a general perception that law and order are absent. And then the real fun begins.

A piece of litter may seem like a small thing, but it can easily lead to an avalanche of long-term consequences. In creating a safe and livable city, little things matter, and thatís not just my opinion.

Thatís one reason former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was such a nut about the issue. By cracking down on urban annoyances such as littering, graffiti, and petty vandalism, Giuliani helped restore a semblance of order to a chaotic city.

Back in Manchester, we donít need Rudy Giuliani to clean up our town. We can do it ourselves, but itís doubtful we will unless something changes. This past weekendís Sky Show, though a nice event, gave city residents and visitors a great chance to leave trash all over the streets. Unfortunately, we rose to the opportunity.
The morning after (which was Memorial Day), the cityís downtown and Millyard were awash in beer cans, broken glass, half-eaten bags of chips, food wrappers, and all manner of garbage. What did these people think would happen to all the litter left behind? Did they think it was biodegradable?

Who knows what drives peopleís behavior? The night of the Sky Show, I heard bottles smashed on the street near my house. At the Hippo office (a good spot for viewing the fireworks), a crowd left behind a landfillís worth of refuse in our parking lot.

This disregard for the public space isnít limited to big downtown events. In my neighborhood, I continually see residents putting dilapidated or broken furniture on the curb for trash pick-up, unaware that you must call the city ahead of time (and pay a fee) for them to retrieve it.

And so the living room set sits out in the weather for days and sometimes weeks on end, getting rained on and having things grow on it, and generally becoming an eyesore, giving the entire neighborhood the ambiance of a yard sale gone horribly wrong.

This is bad for Manchester, and thereís no cure or program to eradicate it other than an increased dose of personal responsibility. The good news is, itís within our power to fix this problem. How? Pick up your litter! Itís that simple.

Yes, we live in a throw-away society. But if we donít make an effort to throw things away properly, the only thing weíre really throwing away is an important part of the cityís quality of life.


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