Keep It Clean
Leland-based Clean Brunswick works to keep the town and its roadways free of litter.
Driving through southeastern North Carolina can be a breathtaking experience. The Carolina blue skies overhead, the billowy white clouds, the tall pines standing sentry, the plastic shopping bag thwapping under your fender.
Litter! What can Brunswick County residents do to reduce its impact on our aesthetics and our property?
The watchdog group Clean Brunswick of Leland offers some practical answers to get individuals and citizen groups involved. Headed by its founder, Nancy Celli, these locals have declared, “Enough is enough!” Celli acknowledges the challenges of dealing with litter while living in the fastest-growing county of North Carolina. The group, which was formed last December, has devised a five-point action plan tailored to grow local community involvement while seeking additional support from the state.
Group member Nina Griffin of Brunswick Forest is encouraged by the grassroots acceptance their group is having with local residents and that more help is out there
“Individuals would do more to curb litter if only they knew how they could help,” she says. “Many residents are frustrated with the problem.”
Clean Brunswick addresses those concerns with an innovative program called Flash Trash Pickup. This plan works in conjunction with N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) by providing surveillance of impacted regions or hot spots for litter in towns. While driving around, if any member of Clean Brunswick sees a significant litter problem, a call is made to a designated group leader. A few on-duty clean-up crew members are dispatched to that area with gloves and bags. The trash is bagged, tied and stacked at that site. A corresponding call to NCDOT notifies them of the location and that the bags are ready for pickup.
One established state program that Clean Brunswick endorses is Swat a Litterbug. By calling a special NCDOT hotline (see below), drivers or pedestrians can report littering violations by phone. This is especially helpful to motorists who witness littering but are unsure of who to contact. There is a general reluctance to call 911, which is reserved for emergencies. If license plate information is obtained by the caller, offenders are tracked down by the state and notified by letter of the fines and littering laws in North Carolina. This also alerts them that their violation has been reported to authorities.
With more than 80,000 miles of paved roadway in North Carolina, how will the problem be contained? Clean Brunswick is awaiting approval of their application for a 501(c) 3 license, which will establish them as a nonprofit organization within the state. Once the license is obtained, group members plan to meet with state lawmakers in Raleigh to bring renewed attention to the litter laws and the limited state funding for that issue. At present, the NCDOT sponsors a litter sweep only twice each year, in April and September. Clean Brunswick would like to see improvements to the two week per year commitment. In addition, they will ask for stronger penalties for first-time offenders by increasing fine limits and community-service requirements.
As we can understand, the responsibility for creating roadside litter is not limited to people who roll down windows and toss out bags, cups and cigarette butts. Just the accumulation of cigarette butts is estimated to be more than one third of the litter tossed to the ground. A large portion of highway debris comes from being blown out from open-backed trucks and other transport vehicles. A secured tarp or covering for loose materials, as required by law, would reduce that debris considerably.
Surface winds can also create litter storms by blowing debris from business dumpsters and unsecured neighborhood trash bins. Some experts estimate that roadside litter is “50% blown and 50% thrown.” Celli points out, “Taking personal responsibility for securing trash bin covers would be an important contribution from the general public.”
Clean Brunswick of Leland is vigorously involved with educating all residents about what they can do each day to help curtail the litter in Leland and Brunswick County. The group hopes to continue spreading their belief that litter control is a shared responsibility among federal, state and local governments and all citizens. Increasing fines and efforts of reporting litter are just a part of the solution. Community involvement and individual responsibility are key. As committee member Sanders summed it up, “If it (litter control) is to be, it’s up to me.”
Tips for Keeping Brunswick Clean
Here are some quick tips from Clean Brunswick for the average resident who wants to be part of the solution:
1. Fully cover and secure all loads in pickup trucks, car roofs and trailers with tarps, nets, straps, etc.
2. Tie down trash can lids with straps or bungie cords, especially on windy days. Avoid overflowing trash cans and allowing the wind to blow the lid open.
3. Bag all small loose items like packing peanuts, shredded paper and the like to prevent them from blowing out of garbage trucks when collected.
4. Source reduce litter by using reusable beverage containers, straws, cups, etc.
5. Carry a grocery bag and gloves on neighborhood walks, nature hikes, dog walking and similar outings. Collect trash you see as you go.