Litter cleanup is key, expert says

Published 12:01 am Friday, April 17, 2009

NATCHEZ — That cigarette butt on the sidewalk is more than just an eyesore. It could be keeping businesses out of Natchez.

Barbara Dorr, executive director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful said there is a direct negative correlation between litter and a lack of economic development in cities as well as statewide.

“Litter destroys the ability to compete for tourism and economic development,” she said.

Email newsletter signup

Citing an Urban Litter Prevention Forum report, Dorr said litter decreases property values and attracts more littering and illegal dumping, which makes an area undesirable to businesses and travelers.

“We cannot climb the economic ladder as a state with a litter problem,” Dorr said.

Dorr spoke Thursday morning during a meeting of the Keep Natchez-Adams County Beautiful Affiliate and Community Development joint learning session.

While business people and tourists don’t enjoy stepping over bottles and take-out boxes, Dorr said there is one group of people that does flock to littered and dirty areas — criminals.

Dorr said areas that are heavily littered indicate a lack of concern and pride by the city. That, in turns, attracts criminals to the area.

But the solution is easy, Dorr said — clean up the mess.

“Bad people don’t like clean areas,” she said. “Beautification and litter pick up is the cheapest way to promote a city.”

Dorr didn’t come to town just to tell the bad news. She also brought information and tools to reverse the litter problem.

She said the best way to get the word out about the effects of litter is through education.

Sarah Kountouris, assistant executive director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful, agreed that creating a culture against littering and dumping is best way to combat the problem. And the earlier you can teach someone not to litter, the better, she said.

“If we don’t reach the children, we have missed the boat,” Kountouris said.

She said Keep Mississippi Beautiful has programs that inform school-aged children about litter prevention. She said she also teaches continuing education classes for teachers that gives them the anti-littering tools to pass on to students.

“If we can get in front of people, we can have a real effect,” Kountouris said.

Dorr said the more people that hear an anti-littering message, the more likely it is to stick.

“The main thing is to involve everyone, so that everyone can have ownership,” she said.

And at least one local leader is already on board. Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said he regularly picks up trash off the front lawn of City Hall.

“I saw a woman a few days ago stop in the middle of the street and empty her car ash tray on to the street,” Middleton said. “I stopped her and told her I’m the mayor and what you just did is against the law. Maybe next time she will think about littering before she does it.”