Along with the fireworks and cookouts, this year's Fourth of July was special in another way: It was the deadline set by area communities to be litter free after weeks of cleanup activities and getting out the word about the litter problem and ways to beautify the area.
A part of the anti-litter campaign concerns what to do if you see someone littering and what is likely to happen as a result. Since much of the litter comes from vehicles, a task force has come up with an idea that encourages reporting the license numbers of vehicles involved in littering and a follow-up letter to the owner of those vehicles reminding them that it's against the law to litter.
The reporting system and letters -- if approved by the anti-litter task force that includes community representatives, law enforcement and the Missouri Department of Transportation -- would be intended as information, not a citation.
As the task force said, many motorists simply aren't thinking about anti-litter laws when they roll down their windows and toss out food containers or cigarette butts. The letters would be a wake-up call. More than that, the letters would be a reminder that this area doesn't tolerate littering and that litterers will be reported.
The phone-in system would use the existing CrimeStoppers hotline. After calls are received, letters will be mailed out. Because incorrect license numbers may be reported, the letters would include an apology if the vehicle in question was not involved in littering.
As for the Fourth of July deadline for being free of litter, how did the area do? As has been stated from the beginning of the anti-litter campaign, this will be an ongoing process. There is still litter to be seen, but the hard work by groups and individuals is paying off. The area has less litter, and many more residents are much more aware of the litter problem. Cleanup efforts have mushroomed since the anti-litter group began calling attention to the situation and educating the public.
The call-in system and the letters are just one way of continuing that process.