ACROSS AMERICA — “It won’t kill you to pick up a piece of cardboard in the street,” Philip said when we asked who should pick up trash that has spilled out of a neighbor’s bin for Block Talk, Patch’exclusive reader-sourced neighborhood etiquette column.

For the most part, the 325 people who answered the responded to the survey agree with the Wantagh-Seaford (New York) Patch, Massapequa (New York) Patch and Levittown (Pennsylvania) Patch reader.

Among them is Bruce.

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“In the past, I have been forced to pick up an entire uneaten bundt cake and used sanitary napkins lying in my driveway,” Bruce, a Silver Springs (Maryland) Patch reader said. “I am now 75, have a bad back and am really tired of picking up after miscreants, even after talking nicely to them and offering them bricks to weigh down their trash. Some people just don’t care.”

Joseph wonders this: What the heck, people?

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“It’s surprising that we can walk by the same piece of trash day to day, even on our own curb or property, and not be aware or think about picking it up,” the Tredyffrin-Easttown (Pennsylvania) Patch, Phoenixville (Pennsylvania) Patch and Shoreline-Lake Forest (Washington) Patch reader said.

“Why can’t we, dog walkers included who carry bags, pick up stray trash along the way as we take a walk and drop it in the next neighbor’s trash bin we see?”

“People are so worried about who has the responsibility that they miss that it is probably them. It is like society has been playing a giant game of ‘not it,’ ” said Across America Patch reader Linda. “It would be nice if a couple of neighbors met to pick up the trash, but instead of being out there, they were more like, ‘Wow, windy day today.’ ”

In society’s game of shirking responsibility, Manassas (Virginia) Patch reader Peggy often finds herself being “it” on many occasions.

“I see homeowners walk right by their mess and just leave it there as it blows down the hill,” Peggy said. “It’s as if they will leave it because me, my husband or another neighbor will pick it up.”

‘Always Wear Gloves’

It’s this simple for Annapolis (Maryland) Patch reader Mary:

“If it’s your mess, clean it up. If the sanitation workers leave a mess, just pick it up. If your neighbors ignore their mess, pick it up anyway. If you care about your neighborhood, then pick it up. But always wear gloves.”

“If you see trash in the street on garbage day and it makes you fume, pick it up and put it in the trash can,” Morristown (New Jersey) Patch reader Reva said. “I have a wooded area off my property and people throw bottles, dog waste and trash in it. It would be nice if they didn’t, but at the end of the day picking it up solves the problem.”

“It is the responsibility of whomever the trash belongs to,” said Bernard, an Evanston (Illinois) Patch reader. “However, my personal belief is that if the trash is on neighborhood properties, neighborhood homeowners should pitch in. That includes trash on the street, clogged sewer drains and anything else nearby. After all, keeping one’s property esthetically beautiful, regardless of how trash gets there, is in the best interest of the individual property owners.

“Cosmetically beautiful neighborhoods are undoubtedly the results of homeowners and apartment renters alike,” Bernard continued, noting that apartment renters without long-standing ties to the neighborhood “may want to develop an owner’s mentality.”

“Behave like a homeowner and you may become one some day,” he said.

Just be a good person, said Autumn, who reads Bethel Patch and Westport Patch, both in Connecticut.

“It’s an act of kindness to assist if you can. You may discover that you have a neighbor who is disabled and can’t run after storm-strewn garbage. If everyone gave just a few minutes more humility, humanity and effort, the world would be a much better place.”

Rick, who reads Woburn Patch and Burlington Patch, both in Massachusetts, appreciates the occasional assist from his neighbors, one of them retired and the other a remote worker.

“Although this doesn’t happen often, I know that one of them has picked up some recyclables,” he said. “I certainly don’t expect them to do this, and if I find out which one has helped, I always thank them. Their reaction is always, ‘No problem.’ They know that if I was home I would have handled it and would do the same for them.”

On windy days, “just do your best to make sure items are secure in your bin,” Rick said. “If you have the chance to pick up a few items that aren’t too nasty, do so.”

Southampton (New York) Patch reader Amy also chimed in: “Pick up the trash. From garbage cans. From lazy slobs who don’t use garbage cans. From litterbugs tossing things from cars. Pick up the trash. There is no way the government — whatever level — can take care of it. This is simple good citizenship. It requires little and benefits all.”

Yes, But . . .

Babs has a few things to say about that.

“I think there should be a state law saying if your trash blows over or someone knocks it over, it’s still your responsibility to clean it up,” she said.

“I would hope the person that owned the trash would pick it up,” said Babs, who reads Newport Patch, Cranston Patch and West Warwick Patch, all in Rhode Island, and Middletown (New Jersey) Patch. “I would pick up my trash and go out of my way to follow it down the street, but that’s just me.”

Oak Lawn (Illinois) Patch reader Susan said she is “that neighbor” who picks up loose trash “just to keep the area clean.” Ideally, the responsibility is with “whoever owns the garbage can,” she said. “But usually they don’t pick it up.”

Susan also wants to see some code enforcement.

“I think there should be a notice to homes that keep their property dirty and unkempt, plus a warning when Christmas decorations are still hanging on gutters and trees and doors,” she said, calling it “a sign of laziness.”

“It’s not your trash, but it is your planet,” said Gwinnett (Georgia) Patch reader Donna. That doesn’t absolve neighbors who are sloppy with their trash, Donna said, but someone has to keep the neighborhood tidy if they won’t.

“First, the property owner should pay attention to the laws, and not overfill. Second, if it’s theirs, they should pick it up. Third, if it’s an ongoing problem like I have across the street from me, try talking to them, if it’s a constant environmental hazard, report them to code enforcement to learn the laws and consequences. Fourth, all else fails, pick it up.”

Donna, who said she is “all too familiar” with the problem as part of the local Blight Busters of Gwinnett Litter Cleanup, wishes local officials “would help more with this situation.”

“Many times, you’re talking to a wall,” Donna said.

‘Slobs In General’

Gail, who reads Smithtown Patch and East Meadow Patch in New York, is fed up.

“Some people on my block don’t care about litter, or the clogged drains in front of their homes, and they don’t do anything about it,” Gail said. “They also have dumpsters in front of their house for months on end, attracting vermin. … The rest of the block is neat. I feel pride in a neat neighborhood, and I’m disgusted with the people who are able-bodied and could clean up the outside of their homes but don’t.”

Greenwich (Connecticut) Patch reader Linda, who lives near an apartment building where 50 people share two totes, one for recycling and the other for garbage, has had it, too.

“Trash is forever flying into neighbors’ yards,” she vented. “Why should the neighbors be responsible when the owners of the trash aren’t? The owners of the trash know it’s theirs and ignore it. Landlords are made aware of the situation and ignore it. It’s called ‘slumlords,’ not landlords.”

Clay isn’t too pleased, either.

“Most residents are slobs in general,” the Fallston (Maryland) Patch reader said.

Minneapolis Patch reader Kanji’s neighbor is in the midst of a construction project and has an open dumpster in her yard.

“I spend too much time picking up her construction debris,” Kanji said. “This has been going on for months. She is a terrible neighbor. I’ve seen her pick up trash once or twice in all the months, when there is debris strewn around daily.”

Sayville-Bayport (New York) Patch reader Marie tried being a good neighbor when some of her trash escaped on a cold, windy day.

“I began picking up everything; however, I sustained a bad injury from doing so requiring doctors, hospitals, a lot of pain etc.,” Marie said. “The solution was to have the trash service pick up my garbage in a less windy area, where if an animal broke the secured bags, it wouldn’t fly all over the neighborhood.”

It’s Recycling 101

Across Pennsylvania Patch reader Mary said living in a clean environment is important to her, so she’ll pick up recyclables that blow her way.

“However, if it happens a second time, I would have a conversation with my neighbor about possibly packing their recycling differently,” Mary said.

Others agreed repeat offenders are a special class.

“If it happens often, you can talk to your neighbor, or you can suggest that he or she put the overflow in your can if you have space,” said Milford (Massachusetts) Patch reader Sandy. “But be nice.”

Pohli, who reads West Chester (Pennsylvania) Patch, agrees to a point, but said ultimately, responsibility lies with the person who sees the trash.

“Track down your neighbors and discuss better ways to organize their trash containers if you can, but aside from that there is no gain in dirty diapers clogging a storm drain if you are the one who sees it and does nothing, no matter who it belongs to,” Pohli said.

“Folks really should learn food, loose plastic bags, dirty diapers and other nonrecyclable items belong in a trash bag and should not be placed loose in the trash can,” said Roswell (Georgia) Patch reader Scott. “There are those that care and those that don’t give a hoot.”

“The person who overstuffed it to the point of not being able to close the lid should be told to bring excess cardboard to the recycle center,” said Novato (California) Patch reader Maryanne. “It’s a nice gesture for anyone to clean up, but the neighbor needs to be told their actions caused a mess and not to do it again or maybe face a littering fine.”

Maryanne also thinks it’s time to bring back the “don’t be a litterbug” campaigns. “Parents and schools should the importance of not littering,” she said. “Stop knowingly littering. It’s gross and bad for the climate.”

And, do you know what else?

“What totally fries me is the people who just dump garbage, fast food, dirty diapers and garbage of any kind out their car windows, or even dump mattresses and furniture anywhere they please,” said Across America Patch reader Lisa.

“This is something that has been ramping up in the past five years. It is completely disrespectful, lazy, dirty and entitled behavior on the part of these pigs,” Lisa went on. “I guess they think a maid will just pick up after them. Rant over!”

The Trash Collector’s Mess

Arlington (Virginia) Patch reader Neely said trash collectors have a responsibility, too.

“It would be nice,” Neely said, “if the collectors picked up the items immediately beside the cans and buckets when items blow out, but I understand that this is a slippery slope.”

“In our neighborhood, the trash collectors make the messes and drive away,” Concord (New Hampshire) Patch reader Gracie said. “It’s a contracted city service that isn’t monitored by the city.”

Napa Valley (California) Patch reader Ericka said that when trucks malfunction, the collector “should pause, jump out and clean up the trash.”

That’s the job, and the collector is paid for doing it well, Ericka said.

“However, the collector may not always be aware, or the spillage could be a result of an animal getting into the can, or the wind blowing a top open,” she continued. “All of us are responsible to clean up the trash when we see it. This is our Earth. We want it around for our next generations.”

People could make it a little easier for the collector, said Sue, who reads Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Patch and Darien Patch in Illinois.

“People should space the cans apart so the garbage truck’s arms can safely go in between the cans to pick it up and dump it without knocking over the other can,” Sue said. “If you know it’s your neighbor’s garbage on your property due to their carelessness, walk it over to their garbage cans and put it back into theirs. Most of the time you can’t tell whose garbage it is, but when you do know, let them know about it.”

“I’m disgusted by how much trash blows around my neighborhood, and I’m constantly picking it up off my lawn, driveway and street,” said Abington (Pennsylvania) Patch reader Courtney.

“I think it’s mostly recyclable trash. Since that trash can’t go into a trash bag, it gets blown all over the place from overstuffed cans. But mostly I think it just misses the trash truck because it’s loose and not secured in a bag,” she said.

Where Carol lives in Florida, trash is still picked up the old-fashioned way.

“All neighbors should carefully bag all garbage,” the Clearwater Patch and DunedIn Patch reader said. “I’m financially strapped, but I always ‘gift wrap’ my trash for the hardworking carriers-they deserve respect. The bags are easier on the back than the ‘up and over’ cans.”

About Block Talk

Block Talk is an exclusive Patch series on neighborhood etiquette — and readers provide the answers. If you have a topic you’d like for us to consider, email with “Block Talk” as the subject line.

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