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 finishes 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.
The education component starts with this comprehensive Environmental Education Program Guide . It is filled with opportunities for students to learn from Mobile’s best resources – our non-profit environmental leaders. It will help teachers at every grade level from every kind of school find a program and a partner that will fit their students. Strong educational programs can convince more community members to take ownership of the problem and work together toward a Litter-Free Mobile.
We are creating, along with partners, unifying educational messaging that incorporates information about litter’s negative impacts — cost, blight leading to increased crime, water quality, flooding, quality of life, and more. Additional educational campaigns such as “Trash Blows, Stow It” and outreach to trash and garbage haulers can have an impact. Education cannot be a once and done. It will take constant reminders so please educate your neighbors, friends, children, and even parents to work for a Litter-Free Mobile!
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. The City of Mobile cleans up litter when we see it, when we call 311, or when we learn about an illegal dumpsite. Through partners, grant opportunities and available funding sources, we have contracted with Osprey Initiative to install and maintain Litter Gitters in Three Mile Creek and Dog River as well as clean the City's litter trap on Bolton's Branch in Eslava Creek off of McVay Drive North. With the help of our partners, it appears that the City is on track to have cleaned up twice as much litter in 2020 in 2019 (2019 - ~30,000 pounds and 2020 - ~62,00 pounds).
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 that 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.