City Manager Isaiah Hugley couldn’t put his own trash out Friday until he walked along the right-of-way and picked up discarded food wrappers, beer bottles and other debris.
Hugley said community service workers pick up litter along Steam Mill Road where he lives and throughout Columbus but that needs to change. “I look forward to the time when this community service is to do other things that wouldn’t be walking along the right-of-way cause people are throwing trash out of the window,” Hugley said Friday. Hugley was at Public Safety Center where 20 officers from the Columbus Police Department, Special Enforcement Division, Muscogee County Marshal’s Office and other agencies took part in a Litter Enforcement Training Workshop. Experts from the state focused on educating the public about litter, cleaning up affected areas and enforcing the law to prevent more littering.
Lynn Cobb, manager of Keep Georgia Beautiful in the Department of Community Affairs, said litter is any variety of items that aren’t where they belong. “The cigarette butt is the most littered item we have in the United States,” she said.
She said even an apple core thrown on the roadway is litter. “Yes, it’s misplaced,” Cobb said.
Local and state governments in Georgia spend $28-30 million a year to pick up litter, said Randy Hartmann, director of the office of Environmental Management, Department of Community Affairs.
In a study conducted in 2006, Hartmann said research found that two-thirds of the litter on the side of the roadway was not from people deliberately throwing out trash. “It was coming from the back of trucks, from loads that were not secure,” he said. “The faster you drive, the more litter falls from the back of trucks.”
Over the last two years, the amount of litter has decreased by 23 percent but not on the urban freeways, he said.
To prevent litter, Cpl. Scott Carroll of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said he cruises the roadways looking for people who might throw out a drink cup. Under a new law passed in 2006, litter violations can lead to a misdemeanor or felony charge. If a bag of trash is found on the roadway and a bill has your name on it, you could be in violation of the law. A misdemeanor case for discarding a cigarette butt or drink can cost you $150-$300, Carroll said. A more aggravating case involving litter may cost $1,500, he said.