How many times do we look down at the road when we come off an interstate exit or any intersection? What do we see? Cigarette butts, tossed fast-food wrappers? You name the trash and it sits along our roadways. How much? Get your head ready to swim. According to the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, volunteers collected 118,020 pounds of trash between June 2012 to present.
How did all that trash get there and why does this perfectly solvable problem continue to resist solution? Most of the litters picked up are tossed cigarette butts, and last we checked, animals and children don’t smoke. Adults, rather than carry a trash bag in their cars or use an ashtray, would rather dump their butts, bottles, cans and bags alongside our roads.
As explained by Dr. Pamela Carswell, executive director of the KMBBC, cigarette butts are not biodegradable. Some experts say a tossed butt could last as long as 15 years; others say butts have the same half-life as plutonium. The butts wash into our streams and rivers where the amount of nicotine contained in just two cigarette filters is enough to kill animal life.
We ought to do better. We ought to get more upset when we see someone using our streets as an ashtray. Law enforcement has agreed to put littering at a higher priority on their list. In Georgia the fine for littering is $1,000. But it’s really not about fines or killing wildlife. It is about a mind-set that allows people to discard their trash where someone else has to pick it up, all the while complaining about their taxes going up to pay for the job -- a job that shouldn’t have to be done and wouldn’t have to be done if there was any home training.
So citizens, it’s time to pull out our harsh stares of disapproval. It’s time to blow our horns at those who would use our streets as a trash can. It’s time for parents to preach the no-litter sermon to their children and children to scold their parents when they see them littering.
Solving our litter problem is really simple. All we have to do is change human behavior.