In Liberty County, we are currently wrestling with the litter aftermath of the holidays. Our community, as well as the rest of the country, is inundated with litter during the holiday season.
Americans generate an enormous amount of trash during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day because of all the eating and wrapping and decorating and celebrating. Unfortunately, much of that extra trash ends up as litter on our roads. As much as I look forward to the holidays each year, I also cringe just thinking about the litter aftermath.
We pay a price for that litter each year environmentally and aesthetically, but there is also an extensive cost factor, too. Litter costs us — all of us.
I have never understood what those who litter are thinking. What is so hard about finding a trash can? Are litterers that lazy? What is so hard about finding a trash can or just hanging onto litter in your car until you can toss it in the trash? Is it so hard to hang onto that cigarette butt until you can discard it properly?
I just don’t get it. I suspect that they think their litter doesn’t matter because it is usually not their property that they are littering. Let me make it clear: if you litter, you are paying for it — and so are the rest of us.
Litter cleanup costs in the United States total more than $11.5 billion each year! Businesses actually have to pick up a tab of $9.1 billion to keep their properties clean. So the next time you wonder why products cost so much, remember that these businesses have to incorporate those cleanup costs into their budgets.
Those of us who still pay taxes in the United States pay more than $1.3 billion through our states, cities and counties to clean up litter. Educational institutions spend approximately $241 million annually for litter abatement.
Now, can’t we all agree that all of these dollars could be used more wisely if we could just get people to manage their trash appropriately? Our economy could seriously use a break, so please stop littering, and let’s reduce these costs!
The ironic part is that litter is decreasing in many areas around the United States, including our county. That is great, but there is so much more that can be done if we can get people to take responsibility for their own actions. That is a lot of cash that can be used for other needed services if people would consider the consequences of their choices.
The sad part is that there are many other costs because of the consequences of the actions of these lazy litterers. The costs of litter extend far beyond the actual costs for cleaning up the mess. Consider these consequences that careless litterers create:
Thirty-six percent of business-development officials say that litter impacts a company’s decision to locate in a community. That has been a factor before here in our county. It hurts our entire community when we lose potential jobs in our area.
Ninety-three percent of homeowners say a littered neighborhood would decrease their assessment of a home’s value and influence their decision to purchase a property. Fifty-five percent of real-estate agents think litter reduces a property value by 9 percent. Sixty-six percent of property appraisers would reduce a home’s value if it was in a littered area.
Litter also has an impact on potential tourism revenues. If you think that only resort areas would be affected by that, think again. Tourism is one of the largest industries in Georgia. Liberty County has the historical, cultural and natural resources to attract tourism dollars, when developed and marketed appropriately. Our community can benefit from this major industry. If we present those resources — and our community — attractively, that would include having a clean and visually appealing community with clean streets and roads, clean sidewalks and gutters, clean and attractive businesses, and attractive venues.
The environmental consequences of litter can have economic impacts as well with restorations of damaged ecosystems and polluted waterways, injuries to wildlife and even possible injuries to humans.
We cannot afford to take litter for granted. Our actions, or inaction, to fight litter affect all of us. Our commitment now — or our lack of it — will have an impact on generations that follow us.
The research results noted above are from the 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost study executed by MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants for Keep America Beautiful. Further study results can be found at www.kab.org/research09.
For more information, contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880-4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.keeplibertybeautiful.org.
Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.