We received a letter and a photo from a reader about a month ago. The photo showed trash dumped next to a roadway guardrail. The letter writer offered both a condemnation and a solution.
“I know your spot, I know your junk, I call your bluff. Fess up, claim your prize and this 78-year-old trash walking grandma will meet you and give you paid dump tickets,” she wrote.
And for the past month, we’ve become more cognizant of just how much trash and junk ends up along our roadways, marring the scenery of Kent County and posing dangers to the environment and our wildlife.
And it’s not just our roadways. It’s also our waterways. We see it bobbing along our shorelines and floating out in the open water.
Littering is not a local issue. It is not unique to Kent County. It is a problem everywhere and one that we can all do something about for the betterment of our community and the environment.
“Litter is the improper disposal of unwanted material. Litter can have large and lasting effects on our communities, such as its impacts to wild-life, people, and the environment, not to mention how it makes the community look and the cost and resources it takes to pick it up,” the Maryland Department of the Environment website states.
As the MDE states, littering can be deliberate, like someone tossing a fast food bag from their car window. It also can be accidental, like a bag falling from an unsecured load on its way to a drop-off site. Either way, it is still littering.
Here’s a number for you courtesy of the MDE: The Maryland State Highway Administration reportedly spends more than $8 million in taxpayer funds to remove on average 2 million tons of litter along state roads and highways.
And think of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive swirling heap of trash in the ocean that is more than twice the size of Texas. No one wants to see a Great Chesapeake Garbage Patch do they?
Litter is not just about marring the scenery. Nor is it just about the environment. It also affects us as a community.
“Litter can bring with it many risks, such as fire, human health, and indirect health hazards from bacteria, rats, roaches, mosquitoes and other critters attracted to litter. Germs, bacteria, and viruses can also be found where there’s litter,” the MDE states.
And it can affect our economy and tourism — making our community less attractive to businesses, employers and visitors. Litter can cause property values to drop.
We are not saying Kent County looks like a trash heap. It most certainly does not. But we do see trash bags strewn along roads. We do see plastic bottles and more bobbing in our waterways.
This also is not a new problem. Anyone remember Woodsy Owl of “Give a hoot — don’t pollute” fame? Good ol’ Woodsy made his first appearance 50 years ago.
While Maryland continues to expand anti-pollution laws, like banning polystyrene containers and balloon releases, the easiest means of combatting litter start right here at home.
First, don’t litter. There is a psychological effect at play here too, in that the less litter people see, the less likely they are to contribute to it. So don’t throw your trash out on the roads and make sure if you are transporting a load, secure it and monitor it as you drive. Second, if you do see litter, pick it up. And if you see someone littering, report it.
Littering is illegal. “Because Maryland believes in being good stewards of its resources, our litter control laws range from a $1,500 fine and possible 30 days in prison to a $30,000 fine with possible 5 years in prison,” the MDE reminds.
So we join with the MDE and that “trash walking grandma” who wrote us last month in urging everyone, please don’t litter.