Walter Mwasi Williams III
5 min readApr 28, 2023

I started picking up trash during the pandemic. There’s no big epiphany as to why or how it started. Maybe I began picking up litter during my walks because I do some of my best thinking while cleaning up. And there was certainly a lot to ponder throughout the lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing.

It was casual at first. During my 2-to-3-mile walks on the trail near my home, on several occasions if I spotted a discarded bottle, wrapper, or container, I would pick it up, and toss it into the first trash bin I came across. That’s how it remained.

At least, until I soon bought myself a pair of gloves because I realized picking up trash with one’s bare hands is all sorts of dumb. I also began reusing paper bags to carry more litter to the garbage by the end of my walk. And that’s how it stayed.

Until I grew fed up with how quickly a single, paper grocery bag filled up by mid-walk, so I switched to carrying an actual garbage bag with me. It was around this time I first began noticing cigarette butts. I was always aware of them, of course, I just never noticed how many were on the ground. No matter, I scooped them up and tossed them in the garbage with all the rest. And that’s what I kept on doing.

Up until the point all the repeated stooping and bending for every single cigarette butt, I came across caused the lamest injury I ever had. So, while begrudgingly recovering from less than pleasant, back spasms, I browsed online for one of those grabby-things.

By June 30, 2022, I began focusing primarily on cigarette butts. I initially believed it would take ages to fill a bag.

Now, armed with a fancy, new grabbing-thingy, and being the sort of turbo dork who would be genuinely excited by such, I returned to the trail with increased enthusiam. It was much easier picking up cigarette butts with the rest of the litter.

It’s here, I would like to pause, and offer my sincerest apologies. I have been incredibly dishonest up until this point. The back thing wasn’t my lamest injury. It turns out, craning your neck forward to constantly look down, for miles at a time, isn’t good for you.

“Of course, it hurts!”

My doctor laughed at the obviousness of why there was a totally “mysterious, monstrous, pain” coursing down my neck, and…