One of the big subject matters at Asheville City Council’s last retreat, which I could have attended if I were independently wealthy, was a pay-as-you-throw trash system. I like pay-per-use, but when a city uses municipal trash pickup as a reason to incorporate and levy taxes, I somehow envision old-fashioned community spirit like bearing each others’ burdens.

Now, I eat out or in my car all the time, so I go through more packaging than somebody who can keep fresh fruits and veggies in their fridge. I am not so much arguing for my advantage, as I expect to be on the paying end of any tax. My concerns are more about poor people with toxic waste – like diapers and other large quantities of bacterial substrate. I personally am afraid of shopping sacks that can’t be thrown in the laundry. Frankly, the economy is so recovering, I only know of a couple households off-hand that are buying anything but food and car maintenance these days.

I lived in Madison County where people had to contract for waste hauling. Back then, bags and furniture were no strangers to roadsides. Places would become informal dumps. At least people could burn their trash on approved days. Personally, I had no contract, but instead dumped mostly OTJ or at a friend’s in Asheville. Maybe that’s how I earned my white-trash reputation.

I am by no means enough of a walker to be acknowledged as such by the green community, but as I have walked along roadsides through the years, my first source of amazement was, after moving to Clarkston, MI, about 30 years ago, finding underwear strewn along the roadside. I lived about three miles from a bit amphitheatre, and so that may have explained the phenom.

Moving to Asheville shortly thereafter, I was astounded that every time I went o a Kmart, I would open the car door and step in a messy diaper. As for white goods, I used to describe Swannanoa as a place where folks decorated their front yards with old appliances. Back then, the most astonishing things I would find along the roadside would be flowers in the winter. That was nice.

I recall stories of doing public housing cleanups with City Councilman Dr. Mumpower. Yeah, I felt half like a political stooge, but he at least seemed to have a grip on economic dynamics, and unlike his peers excepting Dr. Joe Dunn, he didn’t think government should rule with a green and iron fist. Anyway, the cleanups vindicated my general hypothesis about poverty coming from not being able to delay gratification. Sure, many are born into and acculturated by cultures where that is the norm, so this is not to cast blame, but in public housing, the grounds were littered with cigarette butts, beer and soda bottles, cigarette packs, and hairweaves.

One of the volunteers was Don Swaby. He was a Rotarian, and he tried very hard to get some programs started. One was a community garden. Don bought the seeds and prepared the garden for the people, and he hoped they would tend it and reap the fruits thereof. I returned with Don the weekend after the cleanup during which he had planted the garden. The grounds were once again littered as if we had never been there, but there was something new. During the week, the North Carolina Education Lottery had sprung into being, and so along with the other byproducts of instant gratification, were, lots of lottery ticket stubs.

As an aside, the woods behind the projects were typically “full of” diapers, enough so I postulated there was an event, the 50-Yard Diaper Toss. And as another aside, in all the public cleanups, including Adopt-a-Highways, I’ve enjoyed, aside from apple cores, banana peels and similar trappings, the only packaging for nutritional stuff I saw thrown by the wayside was a mason jar of some kind of fruit, up in Weaverville – probably Aunt Nellie’s awful pickled apricots the inlaws wouldn’t dare reject to her face.

But of late, what I am seeing a lot of are syringes, and I don’t think it is because diabetics are naturally lazy. An article today informed me that possession of hypodermics is a crime, and so it would make sense that folks would throw them out the windows as they see a cop car approaching.

House Bill 850, passed by the N.C. Legislature in 2013, includes a stipulation that anyone who declares a syringe to an officer prior to being searched cannot be charged with possession of that syringe. The catch, however, is that the user could be charged with drug possession charges for residue in the needle. A survey of law enforcement officers showed that 24 percent still file possession charges for the residue in the needle.

It is argued that decriminalization of needles has caused a 66 percent reduction in stick injuries to cops. I didn’t know this was a problem.

Anyway, the other big item found along the streets is rubber gloves. One can only wonder as one wanders: Is it to hide fingerprints? Are people engaging in unsanitary acts in their cars? I don’t get this one.