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Litter costs us in many ways
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Litter costs you — whether or not you realize it. I have never been able to understand what litterbugs are thinking. Are they so lazy that they cannot find a trash can or secure garbage bags in their vehicles? Is it too imposing to hang onto that cigarette butt until it can be properly discarded? I just don’t get it.
I suspect these careless people think their litter doesn’t matter because they’re not messing up their own property. Well, I am here to tell you that if you litter, you are paying for it … and so are the rest of us.
Litter clean-up costs in the United States total more than $11.5 billion each year. Businesses actually have to pick up a tab of $9.1 billion to keep their properties clean. So the next time you wonder why products cost so much, remember these businesses have to incorporate those clean-up costs into their sales.
U.S. taxpayers shell out more than $1.3 billion through our states, cities and counties to clean up litter. Educational institutions spend approximately $241 million annually for litter abatement. I think we can all agree that money could be used more wisely if we only get people to manage their trash appropriately. Our economy could use a break, so please stop littering and let’s reduce these costs.
There is a bright spot, though — litter and littering actually is decreasing in many areas around the United States, including our county. That is great, but there is much more that can be done to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions.
Litter has many other “costs” that are hard to quantify in dollar terms. Consider these consequences:
• Thirty-six percent of business development officials say litter impacts a company’s decision to set up shop in a community. That has been a factor before here in our county. It hurts the whole region when we lose the potential for job growth.
• Ninety-three percent of homeowners say a littered neighborhood would decrease their assessment of a home’s value and influence their decision to purchase a property. Fifty-five percent of realtors think litter reduces property value by nine percent. Sixty-six percent of property appraisers would reduce a home’s value if it was in a littered area.
• Litter has an impact on tourism revenues. If you think that only resort areas are affected by that, think again. Tourism is the second-largest industry in Georgia. Liberty County has the historical, cultural and natural resources to attract tourism dollars, if marketed appropriately. Our community could benefit from this industry if we present those resources attractively. This means having a clean and visually appealing community with nice streets and roads, well-maintained sidewalks and gutters, tidy and attractive businesses and comfortable venues.
• The environmental consequences of litter can have economic impacts as well with restorations of damaged ecosystems and polluted waterways, injuries to wildlife and human health hazards.
We cannot afford to take litter for granted. Our actions or inactions affect all of us and will impact later generations.
The statistics in this column are from the 2009 National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost study, executed by Midatlantic Solid Waste Consultants for Keep America Beautiful. More stats are available at

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