Have you seen discarded baby diapers, bottles, cans, pizza boxes and other fast food plastic bag containers at rest stops, along the road and just about everywhere on the highways of America?
Do you ever pick any of them up? No? Too many, too much, too hopeless a task?
Each year, Americans generate 245 million tons of trash. Nine billion tons of it land up in our oceans annually. Millions of tons land up along America's highways, lakes, streams and parking lots. A recent survey showed that Americans toss seven billion tons of plastic trash via cups, bags, plastic food covers and other forms annually. Americans toss 22 million plastic bottles annually onto the land, streams and lakes. Humans toss 3.5 million plastic bottles into the world's oceans 24/7.
Who tosses trash on purpose? Answer: young people between 16 to 34 toss 75 percent of trash onto highways annually.
Who sees all that trash? Answer: touring cyclists traveling at the blinding speed of 12 miles per hour. It's painful to their eyes and souls!
Enter Seth Orme and Abby Taylor, two long distance touring cyclists who pedaled 5,025 miles across the United States in 2017 to pick up 1,200 pounds of trash from Cumberland Island, Georgia to Cape Flattery Washington. They packed out that trash in their trusty B.O.B. (beast of burden) trailer to the next public trash can.
They picked up everything from soiled baby diapers to pee bottles discarded by truckers to fast food containers of every description. They picked up toilets, steel drums and pillows.
Before their tour, as two college kids majoring in outdoor recreation management, Orme hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and the Pacific Coast Trail in 2016. He carried out 2,000 pounds of trash. That's pretty sobering since this journalist cyclist has packed many of those trails to discover the same trash. You might think that serious backpackers would never discard their trash into the wilderness. Not so! We've picked up trash on the Inca Trail, Colorado Trail, trails in Tasmania and trails along the Columbia river on the Lewis and Clark Trail.
Humans across the planet toss their trash into the billions of tons. Hopefully, as those numbers of trashers grow, companies need to develop biodegradable cups, covers and utensils. Also, 25 cent container deposit-return laws need to engage an economic incentive for recycling all materials.
As reported in www.adventurecycling.org , the premier bicycle touring magazine in the world, Orme said, "We are cycling across the country, cleaning up trails, organizing community cleanups and presenting in REI stores in an attempt to inspire a greater sense of environmental stewardship."
"We are both passionate about the outdoors," said Taylor. "Both playing in it and taking care of it."
Together, Orme and Taylor plan to make impact both educationally and spiritually to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors with a sense of love, responsibility and accountability. Their website inspires and instructs others who care. See how you can make a difference: www.packingitout.org
Seth Orme and Abby Taylor: long distance patron saints of the great outdoors.