Officials focus on cleaning up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2001

litter strewn on area roadways


Staff Writer

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Jan. 1, 2001 10 PM

There isn’t quite as much litter on Pike County roadways.

After six months of picking up trash, the problem is under control, but far from gone.

When the summer’s sweltering heat was beating down, some Pike County men were picking up what others felt it necessary to leave behind ­ litter.

Acting on complaints by citizens and ideas from the Pike County Commission, a countywide litter program was established and the roadways are already looking better, that is until the next person tosses something out the car window.

Each day the crew spends five hours picking up the trash along the roadways. The crew has worked a road a day and once the problem areas are cleaned up a first time, they’ll start again at those same areas.

Green said the worst areas are at stop signs and along the heavily traveled highways.

Just after the program began, litter collected in eight hours came close to filling the trailer.

The problem is not quite that bad, now, said Sam Green, enforcement officer for the Pike County Solid Waste Department.

"It’s really gone well," Green said of the county’s efforts to clean up. "It makes Pike County look so much better."

The crew has worked, spending a week in each district, but it is going to take more than five hours per day of picking up trash to make a difference.

"It’s going to take the county, as a whole to get it stopped," Green said of the litter problem.

For now, the solution is to pick it up, but county officials hope seeing the roadways cleaner will trigger citizens to keep it that way.

County commissioners talked about how it is the citizens of Pike County who must take pride in their home and not toss a can, bottle or piece of paper out the car window.

Commissioner Karen Berry was the one who really pushed the county to act on the litter problem and spent the past two years seeking out ways to do just that.

When the litter program first began, Berry described the problem as "horrible" and she thought the county "had to get a handle on it."

The county looked at different options, including picking up trash as community service for criminals, but the liability issue eliminated that idea.

"We buckled down and came up with the money," Berry said of the commission finding the money to pay for employees to work part-time picking up the trash.

But, more money is needed to keep the part-time crews. Green is hoping to get some grant money so the county’s clean-up efforts can continue.

There’s also another option ­ criminal prosecution ­ that Pike County and other parts of the state are using.

According to the Criminal Code of Alabama, anyone who" knowingly deposits in any manner litter on any public or private property or in any public or private waters, having no permission to do so" can be charged with criminal littering and any of the litter, such as bank statements and utility bills bearing the individual’s name can be used in prosecution.

Litter is defined as "rubbish, refuse, waste material, garbage, dead animals or fowl, offal, paper, glass, cans. bottles, trash, scrap metal, debris or any foreign substance."

Criminal littering is a Class C misdemeanor. The penalty for a first conviction is $250 and the fine for a second or subsequent conviction is $500 for each conviction.

In 1999, littering cost the state of Alabama $6 million as state workers spent more than 300,000 hours picking up trash along state and federal highways. Prisoners and those convicted or minor offenses are also often seen picking up litter across the state.

In addition to efforts by the state and counties like Pike, about 1,800 private organizations have adopted close to 2,600 miles of Alabama’s 11,000 roadway miles to keep clean.