Beginning July 15, 2011 callers to Washington Department of Ecology’s “Litter and It Will Hurt” campaign hotline will hear a recorded message telling them that, due to state budget cuts, reports of witnessed littering events will no longer be accepted.
Ecology is suspending this service, which took litter violation reports from citizens and followed up by sending educational letters to the owners of vehicles from which the alleged littering took place.
Ecology’s Waste Reduction, Recycling and Litter Control Account, which funds the state’s litter prevention and cleanup activities, was reduced by $7 million for the 2011-13 biennial budget. The Waste Reduction, Recycling and Litter Control Account is a dedicated fund that’s main revenue source is a tax on industries whose products tend to contribute to the litter problem.
Due to similar reductions to this account taken in the 2009-11 biennium, funding for the education and outreach campaign that promoted the litter reporting line, as well as other litter prevention activities, had already been eliminated. What remained of the state litter prevention effort were the reporting hotline and educational letters, roadway signs and Ecology’s litter website.
Without the campaign to promote visibility of the hotline service, calls have been declining. Call volumes have generally tracked with promotional efforts and have trended up in summer months. On average, the hotline has received 15,000 calls or more per year. In 2009, a targeted advertising push in May and June resulted in the most calls of any year – 21,621. So far in 2011, the peak calling month was June with
890 calls, which is far below a summer average.
Even though the hotline will be suspended, the highway and roadway litter prevention signs will remain in place.
“We are doing this to avoid the cost of signage removal at this time, and to serve as a reminder to drivers not to litter” said Peter Christiansen, Ecology Waste 2 Resources regional manager in King County.
“And the fines for littering are still in place if you are seen by the State Patrol to have littered.”
Operating the toll-free reporting line has cost Ecology approximately $50,000 each year. The agency has contracted with a call center to answer calls, and Ecology staff verified vehicle license information through a Department of Licensing database. Other costs included supplies and postage.
Ecology will achieve the rest of the legislatively directed budget cut through a number of reductions in the Waste 2 Resources Program,
* Reducing Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) funds, hiring 80 fewer youths this biennium.
* Suspending or reducing litter pickup contracts with other state agencies and local governments.
* Leaving several staff positions unfilled.
* Suspending or reducing other work that promotes and measures waste reduction in Washington state.
Despite the budget cutbacks in the litter prevention program, EYC, state Department of Corrections and county (e.g. sheriff’s) crews are continuing to clean up highway and roadway litter. This summer EYC will
hire 270 youths statewide to pick up litter.
With fewer public resources being devoted to litter cleanup and prevention, there is a simple solution for preventing more trash from piling up along roadways and other open spaces: Don’t throw it out there. Trash won’t be an eyesore or a hazard on the road if it does not leave your vehicle.
And when you are traveling to a transfer station to dispose of your garbage, make sure to properly secure your load.
Another way to help keep highways litter-free is to adopt a section of highway. The Adopt-A-Highway program allows individuals and groups to “adopt” a section of state highway by agreeing to take care of it for a two-year period. Volunteer groups may be clubs, employees of a business, or concerned citizens. Businesses or groups can also hire state-approved contractors to pick up their Adopt-a-Highway section. For more information, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Operations/adoptahwy.