The COVID-19 pandemic and state budget decisions apparently combined to make roadside litter more severe locally and statewide this spring.

The pandemic increased drive-through meal purchases, causing more food-related trash to be tossed out vehicle windows. Less trash was picked up from along roads due to budget decisions this year and earlier.

An obvious solution is for people to not toss out litter in the first place. Other states have accomplished this most effectively by including litter prevention in school curriculum. Keep America Beautiful provides materials for this.

It’s easier to help the young develop good habits than change those of adults, but it’s important to help everyone realize why littering is bad.

By making communities less desirable to companies and individuals considering where to move and by driving up government costs, littering hurts quality of life for all. It also reduces community pride.

Litter kills land and aquatic wildlife. Small mammals can get stuck in containers that smell of food, causing suffocation. Animals can become tangled in discarded materials or be fatally cut by cans or broken glass. Birds of prey are often hit by cars while pursuing rodents going to food-related litter.

Consuming plastic can block digestive tracts of animals, causing starvation. Toxic chemicals in plastic can harm wildlife, plus people as chemicals move up the food chain.

One of the worst forms of plastic pollution is Styrofoam. Its tiny particles persist in the environment and threaten wildlife for hundreds of years.

As a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases, litter spreads diseases, viruses and parasites. These can be transmitted to people when they touch litter or indirectly through contaminated animals or insects.

Largely due to Wilkes County government not imposing effective consequences, Wilkes has an ongoing problem with litter from improperly covered trash being hauled to the county landfill.

Wilkes County government could follow Surry County government’s lead by paying nonprofits for the litter they pick up from roadsides. This recently was upped to $7 per large trash bag. Nonprofits don’t have to pay at the Wilkes County Landfill for trash they pick up along roads.

It’s timely to mention that the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway Spring Litter Sweep is April 10-24. The DOT will provide volunteers with bags, gloves and safety vests for picking up trash along roads. Locally, call 336-903-9243 or 336-903-9154 for more details.

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