The fouling of New York City's beaches by syringes, vials of blood and other medical debris suggests that trash disposal has reached a crisis.
I was appalled by reading in the New York Times that authorities weren't sure whether this repellent detritus was "medical in origin or related to the rampant drug abuse that has created a new form of litter on local streets and stoops."
It is depressing enough to contemplate the rising tide of litter in Los Angeles without wondering whether some of it is drug debris.
That both New York City's beaches and Santa Monica Bay are defiled almost simultaneously makes it plain that it's time to clean up.
Discarded sofas, refrigerators and ranges continue to turn up on the shoulders of our well-traveled streets. Yet the city will pick them up free in front of your house.
It is not a well-advertised service. Royal E. Lyon of Granada Hills points out that all you have to do is look up Trash Collection, under Sanitation Bureau, under Public Works Department, under Los Angeles City in the Government Pages of Pacific Bell's White Pages and call that number. Tell them where you live and they will tell you when to put your objects out.
I would give the number except that one digit might be printed wrong, and I would not want to be responsible for 10,000 people calling some innocent citizen and asking when to put their sofas out.
Perhaps this information will help solve the problem of John Babcock, executive producer and editorial director of KABC-TV news, who recently complained that he hadn't had any luck in trying to dispose of a battered, bottomless trash can, and he thought my readers could help.
They have, indeed, come to Babcock's aid with suggestions ranging from the primitive to the aesthetic.
Terry Snyder suggests that Babcock flatten the can by running over it, back and forth, with his car. Pancaked, the can could then be dropped in a usable can.
Snyder also suggests that Babcock could charge a small fee, like Tom Sawyer, permitting his neighbors to jump on the can or hit it with a sledgehammer, thus finding release from their frustrations.
Jim Hull writes from experience: "I stomped mine flat, then folded it by hand, stomped and folded, stomped and folded, until it was a neat little package. Then I pitched it into another trash can."
Tillie Teller offers some more imaginative suggestions: "And so what if it doesn't have a bottom? Is one necessary? He could move it to the back yard, paint geraniums over a first coat of dark green, tuck in a Hefty bag with a few holes punched in the bottom, and use it for disposal of garden trash--leaves, prunings, and so on.
"Or, he could build a wall of brick or wood around it, fill it with soil and plant ivy geraniums on top."
Take it away, Babcock.
Meanwhile, several readers have suggested ways in which larger objects, such as sofas and refrigerators, can be disposed of. Some of them are cynical about human nature.
Babette Stotz of Sherman Oaks recalls the experience of a friend who wanted to get rid of an old sofa: "She put it on the parkway with a sign that simply read, 'Free Sofa.' A week passed and no takers. She then changed the sign to read, 'Sofa $25.' The next morning the sofa was gone."
David Kaftal recounts a similar tale: "A friend of mine had a washing machine he couldn't get rid of. The trash man wouldn't take it. It was too expensive to hire a truck to haul it way. Finally, in desperation, he left it in front of his house with a sign on it announcing that it was for sale for only $25. By the following morning it had been stolen."
Don Abraham of Temple City reveals that he exploited another kind of human frailty to get rid of several unwieldy windows: "I left a cold six-pack of beer and a $10 bill on top. (I live on an easement so the truck pulls up behind my garage.) They took it all."
Somehow it makes me uneasy to think of the trash men rollicking down the streets while disposing of a six-pack.
I just hope they were civic-minded enough to recycle the cans.