By Loretta Melancon
When we moved to North Carolina in 2011, I quickly became concerned about the amount of litter that was accumulated along a busy state road that leads not only to my subdivision but also to our local landfill.
Being fairly naive about government matters, I quickly learned this state-maintained road was part in city limits (Monroe) and the rest in Union County.
After some research, I had a list of key people in both city and county government that I invited to an open discussion with me about how the litter problem might be addressed.
I foolishly thought one or the other would agree to form a litter focus group whereby citizens and government could brainstorm how to best address this problem. Their answer? If you form such a group, we will support you!
Since I don’t discourage easily, I took the bait and hence Litter Busters of Union County NC was formed.
Our mission is the following
“This citizens’ group will explore how to best educate, create awareness, and minimize litter in Union County. We will develop municipal and corporate partnerships who share in our interests and passions.”
The group’s early efforts started with two N.C. Department of Transportation highway adoptions on the infamous road to the landfill – one personal and one by Litter Busters.
Our group also adopted a Monroe city-maintained street and are at present poised to adopt a section of our Bearskin Creek. And the “support” offered by the city and county … many thanks and back pats along with special anti-litter signs to be placed at city limit entrance signs as well as a double dumping fee at the county landfill for unsecured loads.
At the end of last year with the two adoptions on four miles of Olive Branch Road our totals were 826 bags amounting to 12,390 pounds of litter during the two years prior.
These numbers seem absurd when you think of one four-mile section of roadside!
It is a never-ending effort to keep it under control. I earned the title Litter Queen because of continuing efforts to engage city and county government by speaking out at council and commission meetings.
I still dream of a government focus group to brainstorm ways to reduce the littering.
Although “consequences” are in place to deter littering, the city and local sheriff’s officers have higher priority crimes with which to deal. Adding to the difficulty of enforcing the law, an officer has to catch them in the act in order to cite a transgression.
NCDOT does have a Swat a Litterbug phone line (800-331-5864) where you can report the license plate of someone you saw littering and a letter will be sent to them which can at very least embarrass the perps and maybe cause them to think twice before littering again.
Our most recent efforts included 26 bags of litter collected as part of the NC Wildlife Federation Trees4Trash Program. They will plant one tree for every 25 pounds of trash removed from the environment.
So there will be 26 new trees planted in North Carolina as a result of our efforts! It’s been a long slow road.
I do think our 329 Litter Buster Friends have created some awareness and will continue to make a difference in litter pickup if not in litter prevention.
Prevention will take the strong arm of the law and a good dose of community pride before a change is noticed there.