Pharos-Tribune

May 10, 2013

OUR VIEW: Litter problem not going away


Pharos-Tribune

— As press releases started rolling in recently about the 2013 Trash Bash, we were a little shocked at the amount of trash littering our highways.

An annual statewide spring cleaning of sorts, crews of Indiana Department of Transportation workers and volunteers worked alongside each other to pick up litter and other debris. It’s something they’ve been doing for over a decade, and the problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Each year, the crews collect hundreds of tons of trash.

In 2010, INDOT workers and Adopt-A-Highway groups collected more than 11,083 bags of trash and 79.5 tons of loose debris from 3,000 miles of state highways and right of way.

Right about now you might be wagging a finger at motorists, admonishing them for littering our highways. But it’s interesting to note it’s not entirely their fault, as you might easily assume. We all play a role in this problem.

According to INDOT, there are seven primary sources of litter, with motorists coming in at the bottom of the list.

Making the list are household trash handling and its placement at the curb for collection, dumpsters used by businesses, loading docks, construction and demolition loads, trucks with uncovered loads, pedestrians and motorists.

Litter from all these sources is blown away by wind and traffic or carried away by water. It’ll go freely where water or wind carry it until it becomes trapped by a curb, building or fence. And once litter has accumulated, it invites people to add more.

It’s an expensive problem. One that transportation departments spend millions of tax dollars on, draining many man hours annually to pick up litter.

And since we all play a part in the problem, we can all play a part in the solution.

Here’s how:

• Set an example for others, especially children, by not littering.

• Carry a litter bag in your car so you’re not tempted to let it fly out the window.

• Make sure trash cans have lids that can be securely fastened. If you have curbside trash collection, don’t put loose trash in boxes or untied bags.

• Tie papers in a bundle before placing them in a curbside recycling bin.

• If you own a business, check dumpsters daily to see that top and side doors are closed.

• Report areas where people have illegally dumped garbage and debris to your local transportation, public works or conservation office, and ask that the material be removed.

• If you or a member of your family is involved in a civic group, scouting or recreational sports program, encourage the group to “adopt a highway” and maintain it on a regular basis. Call 317-232-5533, Ext. 0, for details.

If we all do our part, the large amounts of time and money can be put to much better use by highway departments.