Officials report less trash than in years past

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The 2008 installment of the Great American Cleanup is over, andproject officials report Lincoln County is becoming a cleaner placebecause of it.

Keep Lincoln County Beautiful member Homer Richardson said whilethe amount of trash collected the previous two years had beenincreasing, there was less trash deposited at the five collectionsites this year. And that, Richardson said, is a good thing.

“Normally, when you say it’s not as much stuff as last year,people think it’s not being used,” he said. “But we think thatpeople have been using it, and they’ve reduced the amount of stuffthat’s out there. The stuff you see piled up in the fields orbehind a house is going away, and that’s what we want.”

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The Great American Cleanup, sponsored by Keep Lincoln CountyBeautiful and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,was carried out over the past five weeks by placing multiple, largetrash bins at an open site in each of the county’s fivedistricts.

Richardson praised county residents’ participation in the eventthis year, saying that people used the bins for exactly what theprogram was designed for – disposing of large items likemattresses, furniture and old television sets.

“If we don’t offer some way for people to do this, they will getdiscouraged and end up taking their trash to an informal dumpsite,” he said. “Once someone puts the first dump load on one ofthese little back roads, someone else sees it and the next thingyou know, you have a big dump going. The Great American Cleanupprevents that because we offer a legal and easy way to dothat.”

County Litter Control Coordinator Ronnie Durr said the officialresults of the cleanup would not be known for at least a week, buthe estimated about 120 tons of trash was collected from all fivesites in the county. That tonnage included approximately 3,000 oldtires, which will be taken to a tire recycling plant.

One item absent from this year’s cleanup was metal items likerefrigerators and washing machines. Durr guessed that, due to thecondition of the economy, industrious county residents have alreadytaken their old metal goods to recycle them at scrap yards.

“There was little to no metal,” Durr said. “That’s all beenconsumed with people recycling that product. We probably gotsomewhere around 80 to 100 tons of metal last year – it was unreal.This year, you might as well say zero for all practicalpurposes.”

The absence of such metal items no doubt contributed to thelesser amount of trash collected this year, but was not the soledifference, Durr said. This year’s amount was only about 20 percentof last year’s 500 tons.

“For the past eight years we’ve been doing this, the amount hasbeen climbing up – going higher and higher,” Durr said. “We feltlike at some point in time that figure was going to have to godown. You just can’t continue getting that much product on aregular basis.”

Durr said he believes this year’s smaller amount has begun a”downhill run,” and that next year’s Great American Cleanup willsee the same amount of trash gathered before the tonnage begins todrop even more.

“The product is just not out there anymore, at least that’s whatwe think,” Durr said. “Hopefully, we can see a light at the end ofthe tunnel, if there is any such light there.”

Durr and Richardson are hoping to expand the cleanup to newsites in 2009 by bringing the city into the project. Durr said cityresidents participated in the cleanup, but not easily.

“City residents, those who did come out, had to travel a gooddistance to get to the sites,” he said. “It would be a greatconvenience during the Great American Cleanup for the city toparticipate with that in some sort of way so city residentswouldn’t have to travel so far.”

Durr said the city’s involvement in the project was “all in thetalking stages.” He hopes the cleanup’s annual success will speakfor itself.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “You go out inthe county and you don’t see the junk that was out there anymore.Maybe we’ve done some good, you know?”