Old Habits Die Hard

I grew up in the area known as the Iowa Great Lakes and responsible lake stewardship was drilled into us from a young age. Each year the entire school was let out for a day for ‘Save Our Shores’ in which we’d be broken into groups and assigned a shore area for trash pickup. One of the things I remember most clearly in learning about trash and lakes is that fish can get caught in the plastic rings from the six-pack packaging used for plastic soda bottles or beer cans. The fish are then either strangled or just die because they can’t get away. We were told we must, absolutely MUST be sure to cut through every ring (including the handle and smaller, I suppose decorative, spaces) before throwing the packaging away.

Being young kids, I guess it never occurred to us to wonder how the trash we were putting in our trash cans would end up in the lake.

It wouldn’t, of course. They were trying to catch us young, so when we grew up into (possibly) asshole adults who drank while boating and threw our trash into the lake we’d maybe think twice before throwing in the plastic from six-packs. Perhaps the image of some of the dead fish we saw would float through our minds. (Although, that might be considered ‘cool’ for teenagers.)

Even at the time, I knew my insistence on making sure we never threw away un-cut rings was unnecessary, because we lived on a farm and burned our trash. I was pretty sure there was no way a plastic ring could hook a fish between our front door and the burn pile. I cut them anyway, though, and still to this day carefully make sure I got every ring before throwing plastic away. I never thought about what other people might think of it until Thomas saw me one day and wondered what I was doing.

Ready for disposal.

(I promise I’ve cut through those diamonds in the middle, even if it doesn’t look like it. I know you were concerned.)

Also, I’ve just realized this is an eight pack. Huh. (It was from Gatorade.)

Do you have a habit that wouldn’t make sense to most people? Head on over to Ginger’s and join the fun!


  1. I do this too. For me, it was preventing birds from getting stuck if they found them in landfills. While I’m cutting them now, I wonder if it’s still necessary…do things still go to landfills? Are they well covered, if they do? Is trash burned around here? I still cut them, just in case, but I prooobbbably should know more about what happens to our trash.

    • Oh, Birds! Good point. Around here things definitely go to landfills, but I think they keep them well covered. I don’t really know, though. I’ve audited landfills. I should know more! But I only audit the financials and they’re usually kept in city hall, far from the actual landfill site.

  2. You know, that’s been my habit, too. And only just recently (as in a few days ago), it finally occurred to me that the rings I put in my trash aren’t going to make it anywhere near a dolphin to strangle it. Kindred spirits!

    • I’m happy to learn other people do this, too! They must have had some campaign to educate school kids long ago. I wonder if they still teach them that.

  3. See, this is another reason why buying the 24 pack in the box is easier, no rings to cut! Because, yes, I’m compelled to do this too.

  4. Raised and living in Iowa also and have never heard of doing this, the campaign must have missed my schools. But now I’m a little appalled at myself for NOT cutting them. Poor fish and birds.