If you were to embrace a cause that stirred your passions and moved you to action, anti-littering efforts may not be at the top of your list. But Missouri officials this week launched a first of its kind campaign to reduce litter along the roadways and riverways of the state. It marks the first time apparently that state funding has been used to address the problem in a coordinated fashion.
It costs the state $6 million annually to clear litter from state highways. That is obviously wasted resources that could better be put to use elsewhere. And litter also impacts communities. For two years now, Sikeston volunteers have attacked the litter issue here with mixed results. Our efforts have produced visible improvements, only to then return to littered neighborhoods once the project was completed. But these limited successes don't mean the effort is misguided. Quite the contrary.
Most people - especially the young - don't seem to take the issue of littering seriously. But the resulting social decay and universal eyesores impact all of our lives. Maybe this coordinated effort will somehow bring that point home.
I did note one point of interest in the campaign that is totally unrelated to littering. When state officials began to examine the issue of litter, they did what is normal and sensible. They developed a snapshot or profile of those most likely to litter. The state found that litterers are typically single, more likely to smoke and usually eat fast food at least twice a week.
Now I know it's unrelated but isn't this the same as profiling in other areas? Police across the nation are being bombarded with complains over racial profiling where they have developed patterns of offenders and monitor those who fit that pattern. Granted, the issues are unrelated but the premise remains the same. If you want to address littering, you first address those most likely to litter as a result of study and statistics. The same applies elsewhere in society it seems to me.
Littering is not a spotlight issue by any means. But it's a problem that erodes pride. That erosion has long-lasting impact on individuals. And in the end, we all lose.