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Expensive litterbugs

POSTED: June 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

We just don’t get why people litter. But they do, as is all to evident driving around some roads in Bryan County and surrounding areas.

It’s an eye sore and it’s embarrassing. It’s disrespectful to Georgia and the United States, since one might think that people who love their state and country would not be disposed to trashing either. Worse, many types of litter can also be harmful to the environment and other creatures that we share this planet with - old tires, batteries, even those plastic six pack containers or fishing line can be dangerous to wildlife if it winds up in the wrong place.

But even if you don’t care one bit about nature or beauty, there’s something else to factor in as well: the cost of cleanup.

We got this press release Thursday from the Georgia Department of Transportation. Here’s how it begins: "The trashing of Georgia’s roadways continues unabated and it is costing state taxpayers millions of dollars each year. The Georgia Department of Transportation announced today that its work crews collected an astounding 973,208 pounds – more than 486 tons – of trash from the state’s roadways, in just one week."

That is astounding. The DOT, by law responsible for maintenance of federal and state highways, is also charged with picking up the garbage thrown out by ignorant motorists. That is a year-round priority, the DOT says, but each April maintenance crews from across the state dedicate a week to a concerted pick up campaign timed with the annual Great American Cleanup.

More from the release: "This year’s results, while not surprising, remain staggering. From less than half of Georgia’s 18,000 miles of roadways, crews filled 81,591 bags with trash. It took them about 59,000 man hours and cost Georgia taxpayers approximately $1.3 million in labor and equipment.

Annually, the Department spends some $15 million on litter removal and that amount does not include the expenditures of local communities and other organizations.

Georgia DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham, who has plenty of other problems on her plate - including finding ways to pay for billions in road improvements - called the trashing of Georgia’s roadways a disgrace.

She’s right.

"No one would allow neighbors to dump garbage in their yards or driveways," Abraham said. "Throwing it out on their highways is no different. And given this state’s very real and very serious transportation needs, we obviously could be spending that $15 million on more productive programs and efforts. "

Just call it one more reason to report litterbugs to authorities whenever possible - and a big reason state and local officials need to get serious about punishing these folks. They're a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Bryan County News

May 17, 2008

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