Take in the trash

Stricter litter enforcement, penalties could benefit city immensely

Augusta’s “Garden City” nickname dates to the 1920s, when the neatly manicured yards in the city’s Hill neighborhood began receiving widespread notice. Garden clubs would raise funds by offering tours of the private gardens.

 

Decades later, local residents find themselves reconciling the two Augustas – the city with tidy landscaping, and the city with too much litter. For every spotless yard, there’s also some well-traveled intersection that accumulates cigarette butts and discarded soda bottles.

The city’s Harrisburg neighborhood is no different.

For a long time, that community’s two biggest problems have been crime and litter. Thanks to more police patrols, crime is down. Now some of Harrisburg’s most vocal advocates want stronger teeth in the city’s litter laws. They petitioned the Augusta Commission recently, asking to raise the fines on littering offenses and possibly institute jail sentences.

That’s perfectly fine with us. And while you’re at it, fashion stronger litter ordinances for the entire state of Georgia. The law should get tougher and stay tougher on the scofflaws who care so little about where they live that they would prefer living in a trash heap than expending even minimal effort to keep Augusta clean. Nationally, according to the environmental group Keep America Beautiful, litter cleanup costs this country more than $11 billion a year – and that’s likely a lowball estimate.

We know why it happens. We live in a disposable nation, first of all. Americans want what they want, and they want it now. And they want it in packaging they’d like to just throw away and forget about. A lot of people buying fast food on Walton Way end up ditching their used wrappers on the streets of Harrisburg.

Also, there are more vehicles than ever on the road. More cars mean more potential car windows to throw trash out of. Keep America Beautiful estimates that more than half of all litterers are thoughtless motorists.

A rise in poverty? A drop in public civility? Those are factors in producing junkier neighborhoods, too. There are too many folks who don’t feel a sense of pride or ownership toward where they live.

It’s always easier to find the litter instead of the litterers, though. The Richmond County Marshal’s Office issued, by one estimate, about 500 littering citations last year. But they have to catch the offenders in the act.

There is no quick fix. Perhaps place a few more trash cans in the most troubled areas. Post signs encouraging people to clean up – and listing the stiff fines and jail sentences you can face if you make the lazy, immature choice to litter.

But the speediest solution that can be managed right now is just what Harrisburg residents are asking for – tougher littering enforcement and tougher penalties for offenders.

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