Litter isn’t just unsightly and expensive to clean up. It’s bad for local tourism. It’s bad for our fisheries. Litter also impacts our water quality because everything that lands on a parking lot or in a roadway eventually winds up in our rivers and waterways. We also know that a littered area destroys community pride, reduces property values and can also contribute to blight and crime.
However, Litter can be stopped. Awards are given to communities across the country for being the cleanest city in their state, or even the nation. We are ready for Mobile to become one of those award winning, Litter-Free cities.
Here is how we’re going to do it:
This campaign is a unified and focused approach to litter that will start with education, focus on prevention, incorporate broad collection efforts and finish with enforcement.
Education is key. Before moving on to any other topic, we must educate the major players on the impact, importance, opportunities, and penalties associated with litter. The focus of this effort will be on four target audiences: school children at every grade level; retail, restaurants, and businesses with a focus on those who create and/or collect litter on site; commercial realtors and property managers; and City Employees.
We are creating, along with partners, a single unifying educational message that incorporates information about litter’s negative impacts — cost, blight leading to increased crime, water quality, flooding, quality of life, and more. The City of Mobile will begin delivering that message weekly but also including good news stories about the actions happening across our city that are making an impact on litter. We are currently creating collateral material that will start to brand this Litter-Free Mobile campaign plan encouraging the community to #CanItYall and take pride in our city.
Prevention is the second step of the plan, but it starts with an analysis of “Litter Hotspots” and what could solve the problem in those areas. If it’s more trash cans, a dumpster, emptied trash cans, or better education, we want to implement those things in a significantly more targeted fashion. We will also study opportunities for increasing recycling as well as encouraging waste reduction at the source – restaurants, city buildings, etc. We will also continue to add screens and other devices on storm drains to catch litter before it enters our waterways.
Collection is the area in which the City of Mobile and all the partners are making the most headway already. The City’s contract with Osprey Initiative and other collection efforts have resulted in increased collection — from around 30,000 pounds in 2019 to 67,000 pounds in 2020. These efforts need to include better data collection, duplication elimination, and targeted cleanups. We are starting by building out a database of when and where litter collection happens that will include data such as numbers of people involved in a cleanup, location, pounds collected (or some measure of how much). With this data, we can make sure we’re seeing additional litter hotspots, eliminating duplication, and securing a clearer picture of all that is being done city wide to collect litter. We will also create and/or support opportunities for communities, organizations, or businesses to “adopt” bus stops, streets, neighborhoods and more.
Enforcement will always be our last option, but it is an important tool to put an end to chronic problems and bad behavior. We will target our monitoring on three major problems in our first year: repeated dump sites, private garbage pickup trucks who do not properly cover their trucks; and commercial premises with habitual trash problems. Everything in this field will still begin at the beginning with education so before we write a ticket, we will meet with violators to ensure they know the rules and have a chance to come into compliance. Voluntary compliance is always the goal.
The City of Mobile trying to pick up every piece of trash in the community is not the solution. Cities that have seen true success in tackling litter have used an “all of the above” approach. Engaging businesses, non-profits, schools, and local government to address litter will have a much farther reaching and, hopefully, more successful impact than other initiatives have in the past. “All in” means everyone using common messaging, sharing posts and stories regularly and combining efforts to reach as many people as possible. We want everyone to know how litter impacts our community and how to stop it.
Prevention methods require buy-in from businesses and citizens, so we must work together to find solutions that are both beneficial and cost effective. With litter collection, sharing the load will make that load lighter, and everyone knows one of the biggest deterrents to littering is to get out and participate in a cleanup.
Ownership – One Mobile:
One Mobile is more than a slogan, it is who we are. When everyone takes on the responsibility of keeping our city clean, we will truly be making progress toward a “Litter-Free Mobile.” When we see litter, we should pick it up — even if we didn’t put it there. If it’s bigger than we can manage on our own, we should report it to 311.
We must be the change we want to see in our city.