photo by Andrew Kearns

Litter Stories!

We thought it might be fun and interesting to include some personal litter vignettes. Your personal experience might be about the most unusual piece of litter, the most ironic or the funniest. Would you like to submit one? Please email me at and tell me your story and we'll post it here.

Making the World a Better Place

Take two grandchildren, a beautiful day and a babbling creek, plus some litter to combine for a lot of fun. What is sometimes referred to as spontaneous volunteerism occurred when a few members of my family drove by and saw Grandpa and Auntie Sophie standing above the creek watching me remove a plastic water bottle caught between the rocks. Of course they had to stop and once they found me in the water with wet feet they decided to pitch in.

Even I didn’t know how much litter there was to remove. In addition to the plastic water bottle, we found a couple of empty beer cans hidden along the creek bank as well as a decades-old automobile gas cap. There were unidentified things that we carted away for about ten pounds worth of junk that won’t find its way to the bay and the ocean. Liliana and Tavio already care about the environment, but they found a way to make it better. And, yes I had their parents’ permission.

When you’re in a safe place, consider the possibilities of educating children about the impact of litter anywhere in our world.

— Joan Murray

Travelin’ Business Card

In 1970, on our nation’s first Earth Day, I participated in helping remove litter on Mt Tam. As I recall, there were mostly cans and glass bottles since plastic wasn’t so ubiquitous at the time. I did find a business card of an insurance agent in Massachusetts and subsequently mailed it to him with a picture from the Marin Independent Journal about the huge amount of garbage collected in various areas of our county that day.

The insurance agent actually wrote back to me and said he had never been to California. The moral to the story must be, “Litter travels, even if you don’t.”

— Joan Murray

One Piece of Litter Every Day Could Make All the Difference

Because I hike and bike everyday, I’m well acquainted with our local landscape. People say Mill Valley doesn’t have a litter problem, but it’s simply not true. I see litter along major streets like East Blithedale and Miller Avenue, and on their medians. It collects along our streamways and near every major shopping area, restaurant and parking lot. Wherever I go, I pick up litter.

Most baffling to me has been the constant trickle of papers and other light materials in our town’s quiet residential areas because most people secure their trash canisters from animals and the elements, both factors in the distribution of litter when humans are not directly responsible.

Regardless, I pick up the litter, and the area’s litter free again, but on a particular day of the next week… more litter! In time, it became clear to me that garbage trucks were inadvertently responsible for distributing small pieces of debris along their routes. Don’t get me wrong; I am not disparaging Mill Valley Refuse or any local collection service. I feel privileged to live in an area where we recycle so much. Visiting friends go green with envy when they see our extensive recycling program. I am merely suggesting that our garbage collectors could use a little help.

If every resident would mentally extend their property boundaries 30 feet in all directions, and make a point to pick up just ONE piece of litter on garbage day, or any other day for that matter, we could effectively eliminate 99% of the litter that is dispersed either out of reckless disregard, or by accident.

If we were to extend this mentality out of our neighborhoods and into our town’s shopping areas and parking lots, Mill Valley wouldn’t have much of a litter problem.

— Debra Schwartz (owner of Tam Hiking Tours)

Own a Dog?

More than a decade into cleaning up Bayfront Park, the Mill Valley-Sausalito Multiuse path, and the areas around our Community Center and Middle School, balls still abound.

The poster below was created by our graphic designer Mary Osborn to remind us all to pick up our stray balls so that they don’t become part of a garbage patch in our waterways.

Click on the image above to download a full-size, generic version of this poster that will work at any location to print and place near your own dog park to spread the word. Let's keep our oceans tennis ball free!


Check out!

Who: Heather Itzla of San Anselmo


Why: She makes lovely artistic and thought-provoking arrangements of the plastics that she encounters in one-hour walks with her dogs.

Do not miss her website!

Heather warns that since bioplastics (examples are the forks and spoons that you find in Whole Foods) are not recycled in Marin, they end up in our landfills where they cannot break down. They do not get composted and they cannot be recycled. Our landfill allows only 45 days to compost and it takes 180 days before these materials can be broken down. Using bioplastics does not make sense!

Heather is circulating a petition on her website to “Remove compostable plastics from circulation in Marin.”

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