OUR VIEW: Talking trash and fixing our litter problem

Dave Bohrer / The Meridian Star

A trash container overflows in front of the U.S. Post Office in downtown Meridian. Litter is a problem that needs a solution in both the city and Lauderdale County.

We love it when the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors talk trash.

We’re talking the littering and illegal dumping variety as discussed in the supervisors’ Jan. 31 workshop meeting.

Drive down any highway in Lauderdale County and you will see countless fast food bags, beer cans, soda bottles and a variety of garbage strewn along the roadside. It is not uncommon to find plastic garbage bags busted and spilling their contents onto the grass.

Worse can be found at illegal dumping spots, such as those off Dr. Brock Road, Fish Lodge Road and Knox Road.

And as county road manager Rush Mayatt told supervisors, Lauderdale County workers spend up to two hours on Monday mornings picking up trash outside of Road Department Satellite B in Collinsville, cleaning up after people who dumped their trash during off hours.

The situation is just as bad in the city of Meridian where litter can be found on almost every street, avenue, circle and place.

We encourage the supervisors to continue their discussions and work toward a solution.

The recommendation of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for the county to hire an enforcement officer to levy fines seems like a potential solution.

The MDEQ idea, mentioned by County Administrator Chris Lafferty, of getting involvement from citizens using their cell phones and signing an affidavit, also, is worth pursuing.

At least once on your daily commutes, you are likely to see a bag or cup flying out of the back of a pickup truck or a cigarette flicked out a car window.

Stiffer penalties that are enforced could be the most effective tool.

Miss. Code Ann. §97-15-29 calls for “a first conviction fine between $50 and $250, with the option of community service, payment of damages, removal of waste, and payment of agency costs. Subsequent convictions: minimum and maximum fines doubled,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

States have a range of penalties and most appear harder on littering and illegal dumping than Mississippi, according to the website.

Maryland appears most serious about preventing a litter problem: “For amounts of litter not exceeding 100 pounds or 27 cubic feet and not for commercial gain: fine up to $1,500, imprisonment up to 30 days, or both. For amounts exceeding 100 pounds or 27 cubic feet, but not exceeding 500 pounds or 216 cubic feet, and not for commercial gain: fine up to $12,500, imprisonment up to one year, or both. For amounts exceeding 500 pounds or 216 cubic feet or in any amount for commercial gain: fine up to $30,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both. The court may also require cleanup, repair or payment of damages, community service, and suspension of driver's license.”

As Mayatt told the supervisors: "Time is spent, a lot of money is spent, but I don't think anything is going to happen until people get hit with some sort of penalty.”

We would welcome better recycling options, including receptacles downtown and in shopping areas, and beverage container deposits to encourage proper disposal.

Individual efforts can help, too.

Obviously, don’t litter, dump or even drop off items to a waste site when it’s closed.

Make sure items in your vehicle are secure and don’t blow out or fall out. And if they do, go back and pick them up.

If you see someone else dumping illegally, report it.

Cover your recycling bin so items don’t blow away.

Don’t overstuff your trash barrel.

If you spot litter while you’re walking, pick it up.

Join a group that is conscientious about community beautification efforts such as the Town and Country Garden Club, Keep Meridian/Lauderdale County Beautiful or Friends of Bonita Lakes Club.

Beyond the taxes we pay for city and county road crews to pick up for someone’s carelessness, the economic impact is deep. The lack of pride turns away prospective employers and residents and leads current ones to leave.

None of the above even addresses the environmental impact.

A display of pride and a little shame are sorely needed. We endorse all efforts by state and local government, community groups and individuals to correct our litter and illegal dumping problem.

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