Sacking the litterbug problem

Road trash: Education and stiffer fines needed to clean up Maryland's increasingly filthy highways.

May 22, 1999

TO MANY motorists, Maryland's roads must look like a sprawling trash receptacle. How else can one explain the increasing litter that dirties the landscape?

The state estimates that it is picking up 61 percent more litter than 10 years ago, and Adopt-a-Highway volunteers are collecting more roadside rubbish. Imagine what the roads would look like without these efforts.

Indeed, the litterbug is back in Maryland and across the country. The nation has 74,000 more miles of roads, 21 million more cars and 85,000 more fast-food restaurants than 20 years ago. A generation has elapsed since public service announcements featuring a tearful Native American implored us to keep America beautiful.

Better law enforcement is needed to crack down on the growing number of litterbugs who toss paper cups, bottles, cigarette butts and other debris out of moving vehicles without fear of retribution. Police statewide, however, issued only 149 citations for litter under 100 pounds in the past fiscal year.

What might make a bigger difference is a renewed public awareness message. Maryland officials have taken a good first step by enlisting Ravens "sack" (or quarterback tackling) specialist Michael McCrary for an anti-litter campaign financed with a $240,000 federal grant. Perhaps Mr. McCrary can persuade younger drivers and passengers to deliver some sacks of their own -- to the trash can and not the streets.

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