OPINION: Gum wrapper can be expensive

opinion

Plastic bags and Styrofoam cups adorn the fence line. Newspapers billow along the roadside. Cigarette butts are scattered across the ground like stars across the night sky. It’s a beautiful scene.

Well, OK, maybe it isn’t. In fact, it’s downright ugly.

I detest litter, especially because there is absolutely no reason for it. Tossing a soda can out of the car window is no big deal; it’s just one can – except it isn’t. There are more than 20 million drivers in the state of Texas. Just imagine if everyone tossed “just one” thing out the window every day.

Then there are the people who let “mother nature” clean out their cars for them. You know what I’m talking about. Those people – whose floorboard is filled with fast-food wrappers, bags, receipts and empty cups – open their doors and the trash just flies out. They didn’t do it on purpose; yeah, right.

It’s a simple solution. I keep a trash bag in my car and simply place the garbage in it. When it’s full, I toss it in a trash can. Radical, I know.

If my sarcasm has no effect on you, maybe the statistics on how litter affects your wallet will. According to the website, dontmesswithtexas.org, the Texas Department of Transportation spent $47 million in 2012 for litter clean-up. Cities, counties, institutions and businesses likely spent even more.

The cost on a national level is close to $11.5 billion annually, according to the website, litteritcostsyou.org.

Also, according to the website, those mostly likely to litter are between the ages of 18 and 34. Didn’t your mothers teach you any better?

Keep in mind that the money spent for cleaning up litter comes from our tax dollars. It would be better if those funds could be used for something like education instead.

Don’t forget about the fines that can be assessed if you are caught littering. That gum wrapper is hardly worth $2,000.

Of course, littering can be extremely dangerous, too. Cigarette butts carelessly tossed to the ground, especially in this area, can start a fire. According to the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management, grassfires usually are caused by careless actions or by lightning.

One of the most common causes of grassfires is cigarettes, and about 50 percent of littered items are cigarette butts. Given the extremely dry conditions and high winds in the Texas Panhandle, tossing a cigarette butt on the ground is not a good idea.

If you see someone carelessly littering, intentionally or not, you can do your part by reporting it. Go to www.dontmesswithtexas.org and report the litterer by filling out a brief form with some information about the vehicle.

The offender will get a litter bag and a letter. Hopefully, they won’t throw that out the window.

Sella Robinett can be contacted via email at s0338456@amarillocollege.com.

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