Steve's blog: Let's get serious about eliminating litter problem

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS  (WLOX) -   In just a few days, the Mississippi Gulf Coast will be hosting the National Governor's Conference.

Granted, most of these visitors will probably not see that much of our beautiful area, but I hope that what they do see isn't tainted with trash.

That's right, I'm talking about roadside litter. You've seen a lot of attention on appearance lately.  We've run stories and editorials about it and the local newspaper has published a series about the problem.

It's one of those things you'd think would be a no-brainer. But unfortunately, it's not.

What compels someone to toss a fast food bag out the car window?

I've read some comments and even heard some violators say:  "That's why they have inmates, to pick up the roadside litter. It's their job."

If that's your mindset, that's ridiculous. While it's fine to have inmates or community volunteers cleaning-up the roadside, they don't need any job security from you tossing your trash along the road.

A big part of the process is public education. We need to do a better job of educating children and teenagers in particular I believe.

Let's face it, kids will most often follow the example of their parents.  So, if they see daddy chucking an empty beer bottle out the truck window, guess what message they're picking up with that?

I know that littering can be punished by a fairly stiff fine. Trouble is, it's a law that's seldom enforced.

It's easy to come down against law enforcement; they're adding to the problem when they ignore litter violators. There's some truth to that. I think that a few well publicized tickets and stiff fines for littering may just be enough to convince some people to think twice before tossing their trash out the window.

I also understand the argument about law enforcement officers having greater priorities than spending their time cruising the highways and looking for litter bugs.

Why not get community police and reserves involved in the campaign?  I know these officers exist in some cities because I've seen them helping out at other things like security at public events or even funeral escorts.

If you toss your litter out the car or truck window, you are a slob.  It's as simple as that. There's really no gray area here.

Smokers are some of the worst offenders. Visit any intersection and look at the pavement. It's likely littered with hundreds or even thousands of cigarette butts.

You see, it seems smokers don't mind puffing away in their cars, but they don't want to stash their butts in the vehicle's ashtray.

What's that? Your vehicle doesn't have an ash tray. Buy one of the portable, disposable trays and stash your butts in that until you can get home and dump them in the trash can.

Littering sends a negative message about our community and the people that live here. Please do your part to police yourself and educate others.

And it shouldn't just be a priority when "company's coming" like the upcoming governor's conference.  Littering anytime is ugly and sends a bad message and image to our visitors.

Kudos to the roadside crews that pick up the litter. Go along with them someday and you'd be surprised, amazed and even sickened at some of the things they have to pick-up from people who displayed piglike behavior.

Kudos also to those residents and property owners who do their best to keep their "front yards" looking neat.

There's a small hotel on Highway 90 in Biloxi (I can't recall the name) that keeps its front looking beautiful.  They've planted flowers and shrubs and make sure the area is always clear of litter.

It doesn't take much effort, but it speaks volumes about how we care for our community.

I was always moved by the weeping Indian chief in the 1960's public service announcement.

He would be shedding more tears today if he saw the deplorable litter alongside too many of our roadways.

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