Litter may be our elephant in the room
by Jack McNeely
Mar 02, 2014 | 505 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack McNeely
Jack McNeely
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During Thursday’s monthly board meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, someone brought up the issue of litter. The consensus among community and business leaders present was that litter must be addressed as we work together to promote economic growth.

According to Billy Luster, chairman of the Walker County Commission, the county collects a minimum of 250 to 300 bags of roadside litter each month. At times, those numbers can double, he said.

Most of the cleanup labor originates from our courts, when a judge orders a person to community service. Also, Community Corrections, LLC, which operates like a work release program here in Walker County, provides road cleanup crews nearly every Saturday.

This free labor is great and appreciated; but is it working? Drive down the streets of our most populated areas or rural roadways and one can quickly answer with a resounding, “No!”

“For $42 per quarter, we’ll pick up (trash) at your door,” said Luster. “But they will spend that in gas to dump illegally. It is a severe problem.”

City of Jasper residents can pay less; only $36 per quarter for roadside pickup of household trash.

Either of these rates represents less than 50 cents per day for garbage pickup service. That is ridiculously low compared to the national average of more than 80 cents per day.

Instead, people would rather roll their car window down and chuck that wadded McDonald’s bag or used diaper. “Out of sight, out of mind,” I guess.

Would it not be easier to attach a recycled grocery store bag onto the inside handle of a back door? When it overflows or emits a foul odor, toss it into a convenience store trash receptacle when filling up your gas tank.

It’s called pride. And we need more of it.

Dameyune Craig, co-offensive coordinator at Auburn University and keynote speaker at Thursday’s Boy Scouts fundraising luncheon in Jasper, touched on this very subject.

He played quarterback for the Tigers in the mid-90s. One of the deciding factors that led him to Auburn University was the apparent pride taken in keeping the college campus litter free. “I wanted to be a part of that culture,” he said. “I know it took effort to keep the campus beautiful; I needed that work ethic.”

Prospective retail and industrial tenants visit Walker County often. It’s a shame that our economic development professionals have to call county officials and ask that a targeted site be swept for litter prior to a visit.

Litter is not solely a Walker County issue. In fact, PALS – People Against a Littered State – is promoting its “Don’t Drop It On Alabama” campaign April 19-26. Last year, a similar statewide project helped remove 345 tons of trash from alongside Alabama’s roadways.

I do not enjoy pointing out negative things about our community. I do, however, think it’s important to open dialogue on issues that need to be addressed.

Let’s take pride in Walker County!

Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.