I have several wonderful friends who were yet again voluntarily facilitating and manning a plastic recycling event. It evolved out of an informative and helpful FB group called “Sustainable Roanoke.” It has become an actionable effort because our city and its recycling receiver cut back on accepting all plastics—even as we continue to accumulate them from food stuffs and elsewhere. It’s perhaps a small drop in our seas of plastic issues, but I fervently believe the little things matter. (To be fair, our county govt. is acting even less responsibly than the city, to no one’s future benefit). I considered assisting but felt it best right now to stick with my own project and marshalled forward with my Saturday morning plan.
For months I’ve floated past a looming black synthetic morass wrapped tightly around a large sycamore trunk on the banks of the river, close to the popular section of Greenway and bridge where I climb out, and it clung as a reminder — “next time” I need to get that damn thing down. Eventually it will degrade into smaller yet still persistent particles that make their way to the oceans and the food chains of all life forms. On a couple occasions I tried to tear it loose, but in a way symbolic of the problems it causes to fish and all organisms, the material was too tough and would not even tear into sections. So on this cool, non-floating weekend morn, I had a mission and I walked to the river prepared with my retractible Wiss limb cutter. Not intending to cut limbs, so much as the tough polyester/nylon material. Happily, it worked perfectly.
In addition, once on the bank, of course I found many other discarded things embedded in the sandy soil long ago, or by the recent spring floods, or left since by bone-headed humans. I must admit it perplexes me that folks can make the effort to screw the lid back onto their plastic water bottles yet leave them on the banks, and NOT bother to deliver them to recycle or trash containers! Nonetheless, it was a very satisfying couple hours for me traversing a hundred yards of river bank. Since I had not floated for a few days, it was good to smell the familiar river scents and dip my hands in a few times, climb some tree trunks, and (admittedly inadvertently) get my feet wet. To be clear—for me this feels less a chore than a fun activity. It’s always a sort of perverse treasure hunt: I collected a 1/2 gallon capacity water-gun, a child’s leather shoe, several mesh sand bags, a few socks, plastic bags and bottles, two golf balls, a couple dozen beer cans (many unopened), half of a heavy wire shopping cart, a roughly 25 feet x 10 feet stout tarp (the black morass), interwoven with more transparent plastic sheeting, and one Firestone tire that I was excited to be able to haul out of shallow waters.
The additional bonus, beyond finally seeing the old sycamore roots unencumbered by the man-made tumor, was within the tire. As I scooped the muddy debris out of it to make it light enough to drag out, I discovered a wee inhabitant, a crayfish. Being a bit camera shy, (or cautious not to become breakfast) it scuttled back into the rim of muck faster than I could pull off my encrusted glove to get hold of my iPhone for a shot. We played this game a few times before it finally relented, trusted that even as I yanked its makeshift trash-home OUT of the river, I really would set it (the crayfish) back INTO the river. Perhaps unconsciously, in my own very small way, emulating the gentle fortitude of someone I deeply admired by recognizing as she did throughout her long life, even the little ones matter.