Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant
Driving through Columbus along I-70, I frequently see specks of white dotting the green median strips along the roadway.
Sometimes it’s randomness – a shoe, T-shirt or maybe a larger object like a chair missing one of its legs. Most of the time, it’s an empty fast food cup, crumpled up piece of paper or something I can’t identify in the half second I see it out of the corner of my eye.
All of it has one thing in common – it makes the Earth sad. Or at least that’s what my daughter likes to say when she sees litter.
I often wonder where it comes from – a trash collection truck losing part of its load, someone’s trash getting blown across town during a windy day, or maybe even just an accidental disposal from an overzealous 2-year-old in the backseat.
Chances are, most of the time it’s not due to any of these.
What makes you think anything outside your immediate surroundings is your trash bag? That’s usually my next thought for this mystery person I’ve now created in my head.
Despite what my husband probably thinks, I’m no treehugger. I recycle, try to avoid using chemicals and genuinely care about the environment. But I also used disposable diapers with both of my girls, sip out of straws after going through the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant, and don’t drive a hybrid vehicle.
When it comes to littering, however, it seems like it should be common sense not to do it. Yet the proof is along the roadways, in our streams and sometimes in the oddest places that people still do.
Earlier this month we went through the drive-thru of a car wash, and there, in the grass just before the entrance sat a beer bottle.
While the sight of that brought up a whole other host of problems we face as a society, I’m thankful there are people out there who do care.
In fact, on Feb. 6, the Central Ohio Litter Summit will bring together stakeholders to identify litter pickup and prevention programs, available resources and litter hotspots in an effort to reduce the amount of waste that litters our communities.
The summit is a joint effort among the Ohio Department of Transportation, Keep Ohio Beautiful, Keep Reynoldsburg Beautiful, Keep Grove City Beautiful, Keep Columbus Beautiful, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, the Franklin County Environmental Court, and the Franklin County Environmental Crimes Task Force.
Since 2007, ODOT has collected 3.7 million bags of trash statewide along state, U.S. and interstate highways – costing taxpayers $37 million. As we all know, even after it’s cleaned up, it’s not long before litter is back on the roadways.
I emailed Joel Hunt, program administrator for the ODOT Highway Beautification and Pollinator Habitat Program, and asked him about what participating organizations will be able to bring back from the summit to help their own communities.
In addition to national litter research and law enforcement issues related to littering, he said participants will learn about litter abatement best practices, information on conducting community litter assessments, how to organize litter pickup events and how to educate youth about littering.
Hunt says the Central Ohio Litter Summit Steering Committee is working hard to have actionable, attainable and measurable outcomes from the summit.
“Our hope is for participants to network at the summit and ultimately work together, possibly combining resources and programs, including litter pickup events, so we all can work together,” he said. “After all, litter knows no boundaries. It affects neighborhoods, communities, local roads, highway corridors and other public spaces.”
Hunt also mentioned that ODOT and its litter partners welcome input from the public, but if you’re interested in attending this summit, space will be limited because of all the community organizations attending. If interested, more information can be found at dot.state.oh.us.
Locally, there’s also a lot of great resources where you can lend a hand, including Keep Reynoldsburg Beautiful. For more information on how you can help this organization, go to facebook.com/keepreynoldsburgbeautiful.
Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.