Trash & Salvage Travelogue
May 5
Nobody ever asks to see my vacation photos. Know why? Because my photos are mostly trash - and I don't mean my composition is lousy, and I'm not being self-critical. When on a trip, I mainly take pics of local trash and pollution, and of recycling efforts. If there are any. It's not intentional, but when I get home, that's all that's on the camera. Trash.

Here's my travelogue. No tips on sightseeing, no discussion of weather or shopping meccas. Just a quick travelogue from the last 15 months.

Cuba was the dirtiest place I've been ever. There were mountains of trash in the water, and the dumpsters were overflowing. It's a pretty stinky place. Plus, I recently read that three buildings a day fall down in Havana, which explains the dust and bricks and stones sitting around everywhere. There is no recycling to speak of and very little re-use, plus car emissions problems. As the water is not good for drinking, plastic water bottles are everywhere.

Spain had an astonishing volume of plastic and paper litter. There are food markets, street markets, flea markets, bakeries, grocery stores, lottery tickets. People buy, and consume, and then throw their crap on the ground. The flea markets were filled with plastic goods and stuff wrapped in plastic. I walked through a parking lot that had recently hosted a flea market, and the debris was piled about four inches high. Like snow on the ground. There was recycling, but not enough. And again, the drinking water came from plastic bottles. Not cool.

L.A. was cleaner than I expected, but there was just as much plastic in the stores and restaurants as any town in the non-recycling Midwest. We stayed at an apartment rented on Airbnb, and there was no recycling available at the complex, only trash bins. Even glass had to go in the trash.

Palm Desert was pretty damn clean! Of course it was also freaky sterile, with very few people out walking on the street and scant bicyclists. Most of the communities were gated, and what was happening behind all those gates remains a mystery. In our house (gated community rental), there was no recycling. There's a theme here, right?

Kansas City actually has a law banning the banning of plastic bags. Need we say more?

Portland in particular and the NW in general have always been a source of pride for me regarding trash. Is there any happier sight than seeing a group of prisoners picking up trash by the side of the freeway? Hopefully they're sorting it for recycling. I love that we keep Oregon green and clean, whether it's beach clean-up weekend or by banning plastic or having one of the most extensive recycling programs in the country. However, I walk a lot, and I'm sorry to report all of Portland is not squeaky clean. Have you noticed this? Certain corners by on-ramps and off-ramps, behind guard rails, next to McDs are full of trash. (See the pics above from my neighborhood.) These lost pockets show the ugly side of PDX, the side that creates trash and throws it by the side of the road. Not cool, folks. Litter is ugly. Waste is pointless.

How do we combat this? Do you get discouraged when you think about the amount of disposable food wrappers and waste from all the drive-thrus out in the world? All the plastic bottles? The waste exists, and it's salt in the wound to see it by the side of the road. Do you pick up trash? Do you participate in neighborhood clean-ups? What's the solution? I want Portland to stay clean. I don't want to be trashy. What are your suggestions for a cleaner environment? The little acts do matter!
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