Litter picker-uppers: Community bands together to pick up trash along roads

Sunday, February 19, 2006
Cape Girardeau firefighters David Bell, front, and Capt. Rick Crites picked up litter with other volunteers at Center Junction between Cape Girardeau and Jackson on June 25, 2005. (Fred Lynch)

Fed up with roadside litter, area city and civic leaders last year launched a campaign to clean up their towns -- enlisting the aid of everyone from council members to jail inmates.

Now officials in Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City want to make permanent war on litter and beautify their communities with the help of the national Keep America Beautiful organization.

The cities, the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, the chamber's beautification committee, Old Town Cape redevelopment organization, the Southeast Missourian and individuals have donated $4,000 to affiliate with Keep America Beautiful.

Money set aside

Nicole Rodriguez picked up trash in the 3100 block of William Street. She and other members of the Community Beautification and Enhancement Committee of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce volunteered to help with the local anti-litter campaign. (Fred Lynch)

The group already has paid the initial membership fee of $3,600 and has $400 set aside for next year's renewal fee.

Cape Girardeau County auditor David Ludwig heads the local effort. He said city and civic leaders will have access to educational literature and information on what cities across the country have done to combat litter.

"There is no reason to reinvent the wheel," said Becky Lyons, senior vice president of Keep America Beautiful. "There probably isn't anything that Cape Girardeau is facing that some other community hasn't already tackled."

Keep America Beautiful has an anti-litter curriculum geared for elementary school children. "It has lessons that deal with solid waste, graffiti, getting involved, cleaning up and beautification," said Lyons.

The organization also provides anti-litter posters.

Ludwig said litter costs taxpayers. The Missouri Department of Transportation spends $5 million annually just to pick up litter along highways, he said.

"It is very unsightly. It is very unsanitary," he said.

"It will be an ongoing battle, but you have to start somewhere," said Ludwig.

Founded in 1953, Keep America Beautiful is the largest community improvement organization in the nation. It has 560 member communities.

"We are thrilled to have another community in Missouri," Lyons said.

Fifth in Missouri

Cape Girardeau will become the fifth Missouri affiliate. The others are Kansas City, Hannibal, Branson and St. Joseph.

A staff member from the Connecticut-based organization was scheduled to meet with local officials this month.

The staff member will train community leaders on how to conduct two Keep America Beautiful surveys to gauge the litter and trash problems.

The first survey will look at the current state of solid waste in the area, including education, ordinances and enforcement. It also will look at such things as how many trash cans are in the city's downtown area and how often city streets are swept, said Lyons.

The local area officially will become a member once the two surveys have been completed and submitted to the not-for-profit organization based in Stamford, Conn.

"Once the litter and solid waste surveys are done and once a structure is in place to run the program, we will come back and train the board of directors," Lyons said.

The national organization requires each affiliate group to have an annual budget.

"Most of the Keep America Beautiful programs are funded in some way by local government," she said.

But Keep America Beautiful doesn't have a minimum spending requirement. "The program is what the community chooses to make of it," Lyons said.

Gives some focus

Jackson Mayor Paul Sander believes it's important to affiliate with a national organization.

"It gives you some focus for the whole effort," he said.

Sander said he hopes all three cities will move ahead with anti-litter projects by summer.

The local anti-litter committee announced last fall it plans to wage a "don't drop it, stop it" advertising campaign. It also discussed establishing a telephone hot line for people to report littering incidents and the license plates of motorists who throw trash out of their cars.

But the group first wants advice from Keep America Beautiful staff before implementing any project.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said affiliation with the national organization gives credibility to the local anti-litter effort. "It is a framework for a real comprehensive effort," he said.

Scott City Mayor Tim Porch said cleaning up all the beer and soda cans littering ditches and roadsides is a constant battle.

"You have to change the mindset," he said.

Scott City routinely uses its city prisoners to pick up roadside trash. Cape Girardeau police have had a similar effort.

Porch said the litter problem is a regional issue. "I think if we don't work together as an area we are not going to get anything done," he said.

335-6611, extension 123

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: