Litter is a bad word.
We end every weekly email newsletter with “Please tell your friends not to litter.”
Littering is complicated, and we think it’s essential to clean up your community.
Our design is to be stewards of the creation around us.
So what can we do to help keep the Mobile Bay Area litter-free?
And why do we seem to have such a litter problem?
Well, it’s complicated.
Why is Littering Bad?
Easy. Yes. At its simplest, it looks terrible and is bad for our guests.
If you invite someone to your home, do you try to tidy up first?
Not littering is like cleaning up our city before our guests (tourists) come to town.
But there are plenty more reasons that are less visible. Our soil and waterways can get contaminated with chemicals.
Litter can hurt and affect wildlife.
And living on the coast, these affect our community significantly!
This article covers five reasons in-depth if you’d like to read further, but the bottom line is that litter harms our community.
Litter is a Complicated Issue
Litter is a multi-faceted problem, and Mobile’s city leaders understand that.
Why do people litter?
While it bothers us to see litter disrupt the look of an area (not even counting environmental concerns), it doesn’t seem to bother all.
Maybe that’s why you see trash on the ground?
And you’ve possibly even witnessed folks tossing trash directly out of their car window.
Or a truck driving down the interstate with trash swirling around the truck bed and flowing out?
Does it not bother those folks?
Maybe they’re thinking, “it’s not my problem.”
Or even, “someone else will clean it up.”
Well, that’s not the right attitude.
While it might get cleaned up after you, it will be with tax dollars, from a business (that passes this cost back to you), or a gracious volunteer that wants to see their home (city) kept clean.
But litter is your responsibility.
Related Reading: The Best Areas To Live Around Mobile, AL- Click Here To Find Out.
Litter and Local Tourism
We couldn’t find data that shows the connection between litter in a city and tourism (tough to measure, we’re sure), but you don’t want to get caught up like this.
When we travel to different cities for the first time, we 100% notice when a town is pristine.
We also notice if trash litters the streets and roadways.
Our great city of Mobile is no different.
When people visit, they notice.
That’s why we’ve been so impressed with the 75 blocks that make up the Mobile BID (business improvement district).
When you visit downtown Mobile, you’ll notice that it’s clean.
There are pretty flowers planted and maintained.
Heck, we’ve even witnessed a BID employee scraping things like gum wrappers stuck to the sidewalks.
Even after major weekend events, it’s quickly returned to prime condition.
The goal is to keep it clean!
But, don’t forget, litter is your responsibility.
So, Where do we Begin?
Well, we’ve made it clear that it doesn’t bother some grown adults to toss trash.
How do we stop them?
Ask them nicely to stop?
Report them to 311? (which, by the way, you can do to report dumping and littering).
Write them a ticket?
If adults behave like this, then we need to educate children, right?
There are countless programs through different entities that aim to help.
We have educational programs in our local schools regarding litter and keeping our waterways clean.
And these programs help teach the importance of keeping our city clean.
So kids, don’t forget, litter is your responsibility.
Litter & Trash Cleanups
But if we didn’t catch the children in time, or the adults have already littered, then we still have a problem.
Litter on the ground.
And litter that can make its way into our waterways.
Right in our backyard is the largest river and delta system in Alabama.
Trash that makes it here eventually makes its way into the bay and possibly the Gulf of Mexico.
See how this problem can escalate?
But once the trash is on the ground, someone must clean it up.
There are countless trash cleanup days.
There’s the Alabama Coastal Cleanup, a massive day of cleaning up our shoreline.
On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, multiple cleanup sites around town clean up hundreds of pounds of trash.
There’s an organization like Love Your Community, that will give you all the tools you need to organize your cleanups – bags, gloves, grabbers, safety vests – they can sort you out!
There are individuals that we see around town that pick up trash.
They go on walks and take a bag with them to fill up (one of these ‘trash walkers’ actually inspired us to pack a shopping back on our walks to stuff it with litter).
They have carts and grabbers and clean up their town areas without being recognized.
Some even make special signs (we’re talking about you Litter Ladies, thanks for what you do!!)
We applaud all of these groups, no matter how big or small.
Cleaning up your community is essential and provides a sense of ownership over your community.
These groups realize that litter is their responsibility.
Related Reading: Dumb Alabama Laws – Read The Full Post Here.
New Litter Ideas for Mobile
One of the newest ideas in our city is Road to Work, a program spearheaded by our friends over at Ransom Ministries.
In partnership with the City of Mobile, they’re giving homeless folks a job of cleaning up roadside trash.
This is an excellent start for folks who need to get back on their feet.
And unless Mobilians decide to make some significant changes, these folks will have a bit of job security 😉
The city of Mobile has also had a Litter Patrol for several years now.
In 2017, the Litter Patrol reported picking up more than 52,000 gallons of trash, which is more than 2,500 Mayor Stimpsons (someone did the math on that).
While we think the litter patrol is excellent and we applaud the efforts, if Mobilians would work together by simply not littering, our city could put those funds towards beautification or other proactive projects.
But the city realizes that litter is its responsibility.
Many Other Organizations Helping
As mentioned, countless organizations help clean up litter and keep our community clean.
PALS (People Against a Littered State) have had the ‘Adopt a Mile’ program since 1988. Groups take ‘ownership’ of an area and keep it clean of trash and litter.
Mobile Bay NEP
The Mobile Bay NEP (National Estuary Program) looks at the big picture of our watershed (which covers most of our state map).
They work with 28 other NEPs across the country on how upstream pollution affects downstream. Mobile Bay is the final resting place for this water, so this is huge for our community.
The Osprey Initiative is a company based here in Mobile, with a proactive approach.
It installs ‘Litter Gitters’ to collect litter in the waterways.
We remember meeting Don Bates (the owner) at a meeting back in 2017 as he was trying out different combinations for this litter trap.
Now, these traps are installed in multiple states around the U.S.
An organization called The Peninsula was formed by neighborhoods around Dauphin Island Parkway (known locally as D.I.P. or “The Dip” by extreme locals) to care for this section of the city of Mobile with its own history.
They arrange events and cleanups for their community. They take ownership of the litter issue.
Mobile Baykeeper has been around for 25 years and is a huge advocate for ‘all things Mobile Bay’. We’ve watched countless cleanup events and community engagement.
Litter & trash around the waterways is one of their organization’s central focuses.
Alabama Coastal Foundation
The Alabama Coastal Foundation (ACF), when not preserving underwater forests and making sure the sea turtles make it to sea, is also concerned about litter.
Ever heard of Mardi Gras? Well, ACF developed the Eco-Team in 2013.
Since then, they’ve recycled thousands of pounds of items and helped Mardi Gras attendees think twice about just tossing trash that can easily make its way into our waterways.
And there are possibly a dozen more organizations, but these are to give you an idea.
Litter Wrap Up – Why It’s Important to Clean Up Your Community
This article doesn’t include our views on recycling.
Don’t get us started down that road, as we believe it’s reasonably easy to decrease trash to landfills by half when recycling.
But we think it’s pretty apparent why cleaning up your community is a positive thing to do – and just the right thing to do.
Litter is complicated, and we have to attack it from many angles.
We have to educate the entire community on why it’s a bad idea (even if it seems obvious to you, to others, it’s not).
We have to stand up to those that litter and ask them nicely not to – and use further punishment (fines hurt!) if necessary.
And we also can’t assume that someone else will handle it.
Now we know that litter is our problem.
We’ve got this.
As always, we love Mobile, and we love you!
Related Reading: Love Your Community – Find More Here.