Walking with a purpose (and a trash bag) – Milford-Orange Times

By Patricia Houser
For the love of nature

Patricia Houser

At 8 a.m. on a cold winter’s morning in Milford, a figure in a bright orange jacket can be seen weaving along the pavement of Welch’s Point Road with a mechanical grapple in one hand and a bucket in his chest. other, picking up trash on a daily basis. walk.

The character is Bill Bevan, a longtime Milford resident, retired businessman and former marathon runner, still very active in his community who, since 1999, has also included litter removal in his daily five-day walks. miles.

All over the world today there is a growing movement to combine exercise with litter picking. In Sweden in 2016 it was nicknamed “plogging” – a combination of the Swedish expression “ploka upp”, which means “to pick up”, with the English, “jogging”. Today there are clubs around the world whose activities can be found on social media with the hashtag “plogging” or the version for walking and picking up litter, “plalking” (or for birdwatchers, “plirding”) .

Neither of these terms existed about 20 years ago when Bevan, realizing his marathon training days were over due to knee problems, switched to walking, then gave in to the impulse to pick up the trash he used to run.

“I hated seeing trash on the side of the road while I was driving or running, let alone walking, and said if I passed by I would pick it up.” Someone else, says Bevan, found his favorite description: “Walking with a purpose.”

Bevan has picked up hundreds of thousands of litter in Milford since 1999 – from cigarette butts and fast food scraps to cans and bottles, bags of dog poo (one to two a day) and advertising supplements and catalogs in plastic. As of 2020, there have also been “incredible numbers” of medical masks on the side of the roads.

By slowing down to scavenge the trash, Bevan adapts to his surroundings in other ways. If a particular homeowner on their route can use a helping hand to get the trash can up a long driveway or if someone with mobility issues can be helped by bringing their paper closer to the front porch, they will help you too. His attention also extends to the wildlife and landscapes of his daily route. He notices, for example, where erosion at the edge of a local stream is approaching the road itself and worries about small pieces of plastic that could injure an osprey or other birds feeding among the debris. .

Bevan keeps records, by nature and habit, of his journaling training days. He sometimes tracked the percentages of beer cans versus soda cans versus water bottles, and even the brand names of the most common products. He notes the prevalence among beer waste, for example, of Budweiser and Bud Light for some time.

Many environmental organizations would applaud the impetus to track waste branding, as it can help hold producers – not just consumers – accountable for the damages of a “throwaway economy.” A waste audit, sponsored by non-profit organization Break Free from Plastic, found that products from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé topped the trash in 239 cleanups across 42 countries and six continents.

Bevan’s diligence and longevity in trash removal make him something of a celebrity for Tony Samuelian, who started doing his own trash cleanup route near Point Beach two or three years ago. Samuelian, a former teacher who is also a runner, sees scavenging as part of a larger ethical responsibility akin to “leaving no trace” in campgrounds. He sees others who have started to get used to it and he has found a lot of appreciation from strangers.

“I even had city workers stop me and thank me,” he said. “In fact, a woman stopped me in her car and she said, ‘I’ve been looking for you for a year’ and she gave me two gift certificates – she works somewhere where there were money set aside for malicious acts. kindness.”

Bevan also talks about enjoying his “trash walking” hobby. “You meet so many people on these walks,” he said. “I took the walk one day in early spring with my wife, and it was morning – and she didn’t realize how many people were passing by, honking, waving, shouting out the window. , encourage things, you know.”

When asked if he was sometimes discouraged by the nature of the task, Bevan replied, “No. No. The only time it could be disheartening is if I’m out for a walk and it starts to rain hard,’ he added, which tends to end a walk. “I consider it a pleasure to walk around and do what I do. It’s like a gift, really.

Patricia Houser, PhD, AICP, shares her exploration of local and regional environmental issues in this column as a member of the nonpartisan Milford Environmental Concerns Coalition.

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