Survey: Local litter scene looking good

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The litter situation in Lincoln County has improved over theprevious years so much that there may not be room for improvementnext year, according to the results of Keep Lincoln CountyBeautiful’s 2008 litter survey.

KLCB committee member Homer Richardson presented the results ofthis year’s survey to county supervisors Monday, touting a 9.33percent improvement over 2007’s litter count in Brookhaven and a1.02 percent improvement in the county as a whole.

The year-to-year improvements are becoming so minuscule thatRichardson said it’s actually the numbers behind the numbers thatmatter now. Since KLCB began performing the survey, LincolnCounty’s litter rating has been cut in half, falling from anaverage of about 2.3 to roughly 1.3 on a scale of 1 to 4, from “nolitter” to “severely littered,” respectively.

“When we first started in 2000, we would find places where peopleliterally had just dropped garbage alongside the road,” Richardsonsaid. “I’m sure it still happens from time to time now, but wedon’t find it very much. Now, we’re down to where if you see acouple of items at one spot, it’s unusual.”

Richardson said the county’s roadsides are becoming so clean thatsome forms of litter have seemingly disappeared altogether. Yearsago, large piles of trash and long stretches of littered highwayshoulder were common, but now almost all the litter consists ofsingle pieces of trash thrown from car windows or blown out oftruck beds, he said.

“We’re not finding consistent areas with litter in them, what Icall the large cleanup areas,” he said. “Styrofoam cups, plasticcups, paper bags, napkins – that is what we’re really finding, andit’s just here and there.”

Richardson said the county’s litter situation has now improved tothe point where concerted pickup efforts would be overkill, and thebest way to clean the county further is by individual effort.

But there is still room for such effort.

While the county improved as a whole, three of the five districtsactually regressed. The amount of litter found in District Twoincreased by 8.07 percent, while Districts Three and Four went upby 5.44 percent and 0.26 percent, respectively.

Still, District One showed a 6.57 percent improvement and DistrictFive improved by 4.26 percent.

“We’re down to the point now where it’s really just going to takepeople looking at their road, the areas in front of their homes toclean it up,” he said. “The biggest thing that would help improvethe county is for people to make sure that 50 yards on each side oftheir mailbox is clean. Once it’s clean, people tend to not throwsomething out.”

Several factors have improved the county’s litter situation,including special programs, hard work and awareness, Richardsonsaid.

The annual Great American Cleanup, a program in which large trashbins are placed throughout the county for the collection of heavytrash, has seen growing success each year. In 2008, the programcollected approximately 120 tons of trash, a huge drop from 2007’scollection of around 500 tons and a sign that the program isworking, Richardson said.

The interest generated through the cleanup and the annual surveyhas also made people more aware of their own actions regardinglittering, Richardson said.

Another factor helping reduce litter in the county is the vigilanceof county residents on their own property, and the work of LitterControl Coordinator Ronnie Durr.

Durr said he, with the help of a trusty, concentrates on certain”hotspots” around the county to eradicate litter.

“Whether it be one little area or a stretch of road, we’ll stop andpick it up,” Durr said of his daily duties. “If people see thosesites are clean, they generally leave it alone and move somewhereelse – then those sites get reported to me and we take care ofthem.”

While garbage bags and burger wrappers aren’t vexing Durr as muchthese days, he is having increasing troubles with biologicallitter, he said. With deer season now in full swing, dumped deercarcasses – and dumped deer parts – are presenting him with asticky situation.

“That kind of stuff is terrible to have to deal with,” Durr said.”And the hunters, they know better than that.”

Durr said there is little he can do about deer remains other thanto drag them to the roadside and “let the buzzards have it.” Henoted that dumping deer remains on roadways is not only a violationof the county’s litter ordinance, but also an offense punishable bythe Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Durr’s deer problem should take care of itself in early 2009 whenthe season ends. For now, Lincoln County is the cleanest it’s beenin a decade – an important quality for growth and development.

“This has implications in our overall economic development picturein that it is an indicator of people’s pride of ownership in theircommunity,” said Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of CommerceExecutive Vice President Cliff Brumfield. “It’s an indicator of alocal area’s quality of life, and it’s important for us to holdonto. Once a community ceases to care about its overall aestheticvalue, it’s hard to get it back.”