Cleanup efforts important

Cleanup efforts, whether like the one held in Altoona on Sept. 21 or the spring cleanups held annually in Blair County and throughout the region, usually result in news coverage focusing on the volunteers who devote their time to improving the appearance of the landscape.

As part of that effort, the volunteers oftentimes find and remove objects potentially dangerous to animal life as well as to people who might at some time come in contact with it.

The volunteers deserve much praise and gratitude, especially since they sometimes put their own well-being and lives in danger during their participation in these laudable initiatives.

Beyond that, not to be ignored are the state Department of Transportation and municipal employees who often can be seen performing cleanup chores along area streets and highways, sometimes at risk of inattentive or careless drivers.

They too deserve praise and gratitude.

But there’s another aspect — the tawdry aspect — behind the many examples of community pride like the Sept. 21 Altoona Community Cleanup Day sponsored by United Way of Blair County. That uncomplimentary aspect is the uncaring, careless, irresponsible attitude of the many people who create the unflattering, messy conditions.

It takes little effort to dispose of a cigarette butt properly, to find a trash receptacle in which to place a soft drink or alcoholic beverage container, or fast food wrappings.

On a broader scale, mostly outside of the city environment, there’s a right way to dispose of worn-out tires; inoperable refrigerators, washers, dryers and dishwashers; and unwanted vehicle parts. Roadsides, wooded areas, or in and along streams aren’t acceptable disposal options, but too many people opt for such irresponsible and illegal dumping.

Where is all of this leading? It is to the fact that more needs to be done to discourage littering and large-scale dumping.

Of course, it would involve effort, but a few highly publicized examples of investigation focusing on who was responsible for littering and illegal dumping might help curb the problem — especially regarding bigger items.

One example is appliances that have been registered with the manufacturers for warranty purposes; another example is tires.

There are databases that contain information on when items were purchased and by whom, based on the items’ model and serial numbers.

Again, some effort would be involved, but that effort might cause many people to think twice about improper disposal.

The 120 people who showed up for the Sept. 21 Altoona cleanup, which centered on the neighborhood between First and Fourth streets and between Lexington and Spruce avenues was focused not only on litter but also on some other unsightly conditions such as weeds and dirt on sidewalks.

The volunteers’ efforts did make a positive difference, including on some properties where the volunteers helped clean front yards.

A 1967 song titled “Alice’s Restaurant” included the lyrics “Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it.”

Altoona’s and Blair County’s litter and illegal-disposal problem might be reduced if authorities here followed up on evidence — serial numbers, names and other identifying information — by asking similar questions and then initiating proceedings against those with such little regard for the environment around them.


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