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OPINION | COLBIE JONES: Littering problem

Don’t put it down to be picked up by Colbie Jones Special to the Democrat-Gazette | August 22, 2022 at 3:47 a.m.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down?

This phrase is commonly used to confirm that someone has understood what was just said. Unfortunately, it can also be the mindset of litterers. "Are you, a fellow member of my community, picking up the litter I just put down?"

According to the 2020 Litter Study conducted by Keep America Beautiful, there are 50 billion pieces of litter along roadways and waterways across the U.S., an average of 152 pieces of litter per citizen. What's more, the study also noted that 90 percent of U.S. citizens understand and acknowledge that litter is a problem.

We overwhelmingly agree that litter is a problem and yet many still create that litter in a state prized for its natural beauty. We must change the mindset and behaviors of the 10 percent that don't recognize litter or their own litter-causing actions as a problem.

At Keep Arkansas Beautiful (KAB), we want to not only empower and deploy volunteers to remove litter, but also influence daily behaviors so people don't put it down to be picked up in the first place.

Arkansas tourism, the state's second-largest industry, is steadily recovering from pandemic lows. According to the Arkansas Tourism Ticker, Arkansas' 2 percent tourism tax revenue in January and February was $2.704 million, up 48 percent compared with the $1.827 million in the same period of 2021, and up 17.6 percent over the same period in 2019. Beautification, litter prevention and litter cleanups are key to continuing this success and are all mission-critical to Keep Arkansas Beautiful.

There are several ways the public can get involved and make a difference. One avenue is reporting litterers along roadways to the Litter Hotline at (866) 811-1222. There's no legal difference between a driver actively littering from their window or allowing trash to blow from their truck bed. When reported by a private citizen, offenders are sent a letter alerting them to the violation and warned of future possible fines. If a littering incident is observed by law enforcement, a driver can be issued a fine of up to $1,000.

Another way behaviors can be influenced is through early childhood education. Studies have shown that most learned behaviors are instilled between birth and age 9. While behaviors in adults are more difficult to change, teaching children the value of maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of their surroundings can guide their actions for decades to come.

That's why KAB launched the Otto the Otter Youth Education Program in 2018. With Otto as its kid-friendly, interactive mascot, KAB has been teaching children statewide about how to take care of and preserve The Natural State. And what Otto has taught children, children are teaching to their parents, helping change adult behaviors.

As I step into the role of director of Keep Arkansas Beautiful, I encourage all Arkansans to do their part to keep The Natural State natural so current residents, visitors and future generations can continue to enjoy this beautiful state.

Any Arkansan can join the fight against litter by securing their own litter, reporting offenders to the Litter Hotline, hosting a cleanup effort and sharing our free education and cleanup resources on

And remember: Don't put it down to be picked up.

Colbie Jones serves as director of Keep Arkansas Beautiful and is an experienced marketing executive, leader and horticulturist.

Print Headline: Littering problem


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