By: Leigh Patterson
As many of you know, litter abatement and education about the harmful effects of litter are some of our main focuses here at Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful. We also know that litter is unsightly, unwelcoming, and harmful to our environment and health. Its presence or absence can speak volumes about a community. Our goal is to make Athens and Limestone County clean, green, and beautiful.
Sources of litter include trash being tossed out by drivers or dropped by pedestrians, improper bagging of trash, unsecured items that blow out of improperly covered trucks, cigarette litter, flyers that are passed out in neighborhoods or placed on parked cars, and the list goes on. People who see litter are more likely to litter themselves.
This litter travels by wind, water, and animals. It ends up in our ditches, clogs our storm drains, enters our waterways, and eventually enters our river, which is our source of drinking water here in Limestone County.
What does litter cost us as a community? The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) claims that almost $7 million was spent in 2019 to clean up litter along Alabama roadsides. If litter were not an issue, that money could be spent in other more beneficial ways, such as improving roadways and infrastructure. The cost of cleaning up litter falls to government, businesses, and schools.
Our city and county are growing at an unprecedented rate, and litter has a direct impact on our growth. The presence of litter decreases home and property values. Its presence also affects businesses and industries in their decisions to locate to a community. Tourism revenues can be lost. Environmental impacts on our waterways, wildlife, green spaces, and our health are also a cost.
We want our city to be clean, beautiful, and inviting to visitors, and to those considering moving their families or their businesses here. We want these families and businesses to take pride in our city and to be invested in its care as they move here. If we expect them to do this, then we have to reflect this behavior as a community ourselves.
We all have a role to play in litter prevention. A beautiful story came from one of our cleanups earlier this year that illustrates this point. KALB hosted a litter cleanup at the Richard Martin Trail in Elkmont back in April. There were around 45 volunteers. Among these volunteers was a family with several children. One of their children was blind. Someone asked if he/she would just be following along with his/her family as they cleaned. The answer was, “No! I’m going to help. I’m going to hold the bag.”
So you see, we all have a job to do in this fight against litter. No role is too small. Whether through properly handling and disposing of our personal garbage, volunteering for cleanup events, reporting acts of littering when witnessed, or adopting a stretch of roadway to care for, these are all important roles and ways that citizens can get involved. I encourage you to look at what your role can be in this process, and to get out and make a difference in whatever your role is. In what way can you hold the bag?
By: Leigh Patterson
Executive Director – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful