Ridgeland cracking down on litter
RIDGELAND — City officials said they are cleaning up litter and enforcing litter laws.
Unsightly litter wreaks havoc on the environment, provides a breeding ground for bacteria, insects, rodents and other pests and is physically harmful to pets and other animals, officials said in a Wednesday press release.
Ridgeland Public Works Director Alan Hart said the cost of litter management and the planning and preparation it takes to send a crew to pick it up is expensive for taxpayers.
“It’s frustrating that taxpayer dollars are being spent to combat something that is completely preventable,” Hart said.
The effects of littering create a vicious cycle and take time and preparation to get a crew together to clean it up, officials said.
City officials said if inmates are used to clean up litter, it can take weeks to schedule them through law enforcement agencies. It also requires police officers to be scheduled during their off-times and paid overtime to provide a safety barrier between passing cars and the pickup team.
When inmates are unavailable or can’t be scheduled, city maintenance workers are used, creating the burden of extra costs, officials said.
“The last crew of city maintenance workers picked up over 300 bags of litter and incurred labor costs of $5,700,” officials said in the press release. “Over the past several months, the Ridgeland Police Department has partnered with public works to address the unsightliness of litter along Ridgeland’s stretch of I-220 and I-55. These efforts have been strictly clean-up projects and require an assigned officer working in overtime capacity.”
Ridgeland isn’t the only city where litter has left its mess, city officials said, adding the Mississippi Department of Transportation spends millions of dollars every year picking up roadside litter throughout the state, according to MDOT’s website.
“It also states that 62% of all Mississippi litter is deliberate, and males appear to be responsible for 72% of all deliberate littering and 89% of all accidental littering,” the press release states. “However, a staggering 38% of all littering by motorists comes from what escapes the back of a pickup truck.”
Hart recommended a tip for pickup truck drivers.
“A good, simple habit to do while filling up your tank at the gas station would be to empty your trash from the truck bed,” Hart said. “It would prevent a lot of the unnecessary trash being blown out onto our roadways.”
For 30-plus years, Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee said his ultimate goal has been to provide a good quality of life for all his citizens.
“As Mayor, it’s my responsibility to make sure citizens have access to clean water, fresh air, and outdoor recreation,” McGee said. “We are blessed to have all this in Ridgeland, but it breaks my heart to see how careless and selfish some citizens are by throwing trash on what we’ve worked so hard to provide them. The best quality of life includes a city with a clean environment free of litter.”
Studies conducted by Keep America Beautiful have shown 36% of business developers are visually impacted by areas with exceptional amounts of litter, giving enough reason for them to choose to start their endeavors elsewhere, the press release states.
Additionally, Keep America Beautiful reports that property values are tremendously affected by litter. Fifty-five percent of surveyed realtors said litter could reduce property values by as much as 9%. The nosedive continues with 60% of property appraisers reducing a home’s value if nearby property is littered.
Law enforcement officials in Ridgeland are keeping an eye on and cracking down on violators.
“As part of our overall mission, Ridgeland Police officers are constantly looking for violations of the litter law,” said John Neal, Ridgeland Police Chief. “These violations can be as simple as tossing a cup from a fast-food restaurant, thumping a cigarette out the window, or allowing trash to blow from a large container owned by a commercial solid waste company.”
The repercussions of being caught littering can hit the violator’s pocketbook.
“Based on the type of litter violation, offenders can expect a misdemeanor fine ranging from $50 to $1,000 for a first violation,” Neal said. “Although police officers are not able to observe every violation, we encourage our residents and visitors to be another set of eyes in our enforcement efforts. If you witness a deliberate violation of the state litter laws, we encourage you to obtain a license plate number and contact the Ridgeland Police Department.”
Hart said he is determined to get on top of Ridgeland’s litter problem with Ridgeland’s leadership backing.
“I appreciate the support the Mayor and Board have given me in pushing this program,” Hart said. “With their encouragement, I’m reassured we will find a solution to the eyesore of litter.”