LUMBERTON — Clean Litter Sweep ends Sunday, but county leaders say that keeping the county clean should be part of their daily routine.
The biannual event started April 14.
Thomas Delane “Lane” Garner, Lumber River State Park superintendent, insists that people actively stay involved with litter pickup every day.
“Picking up litter throughout the year is a good way to show pride in your community,” Lane said. “There were many volunteer groups involved. Clean Litter Sweep has helped kick off the camping season.”
Among the volunteer groups were members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and members of the Boy and Girl Scouts, Lane said.
A lot of cigarette butts are commonly found scattered throughout the park, Lane said. He has picked up thousands of cigarette butts during his 15-year parks career.
“Robeson County has a litter issue,” Lane said. “This makes the area look bad and it harms animals.”
“When people throw things like cigarette butts, animals mistake it for food. They are not able to digest them and often, as a result, they die,” he said. “I’ve seen tangled fish in the water, six-pack plastic rings wrapped around the necks of waterfowl. It’s disheartening.”
Fines range from $50 for nonintentional littering, such as if trash blows off a vehicle, and $250 for intentional littering, such as throwing a can out a car window.
Catching litterbugs can be a challenge to a law enforcement officer because they would have to see the perpetrator throw trash on the ground, in the water or any place other than a trash bin in order to be able to write a citation.
“It makes me angry,” he said. “Just to see somebody take a bit of effort to walk to the trash can help save tax dollars. You might even get some exercise.”
There are three park enforcement officers who cover 14,000 acres of woods and waterways, and they also do their part to pick up litter, Lane said. If there is less trash to pick up, park employees can spend more money and time performing other duties.
“We try to keep the park clean for visitors. Given our situation we wear many hats,” Lane said. “If you worked at the park you would be a bit more passionate.”
Clean Litter Sweep was a success, said Raymond Cummings, Clean and Green Committee director and county Board of Commissioners chairman.
“I saw plenty of groups getting involved,” Cummings said. “We gave out 500 tarps for Tarp Tuesday in an effort to make sure people cover their trash when transported by pickup truck or in an open trailer.”
A church youth group was able to fill 25 bags of trash they collected along roads near their place of worship, he said.
“I would like to thank Diane Goins and her volunteers from Union Chapel Holiness Methodist Church for cleaning up Union Road,” Cummings said.
Dealing with litter is an ongoing task, including education, he said.
“Everything from continued public education to educating the public about being responsible,” Cummings said. “Don’t throw trash out. Carry litter bags in your car. Litter is everyone’s problem. It’s going to take everyone to make a difference.”
The phone was ringing steadily at the county landfill, located at is 246 Landfill Road in St. Pauls, during the start of Clean Litter Sweep, said Kristina Locklear-Cummings, recycling coordinator.
“We had quite a few groups call for supplies. We normally see an increase in support around this time,” she said. “The changing weather brings people out. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold.”
If business, church groups and individuals adopt a highway the county will be in better shape, Locklear-Cummings said.
“The landfill adopted a highway on a two-mile stretch of Highway 20 leading into the landfill,” she said. “There are 64 to 65 organizations involved in the program. We need more.”
Anyone interested in the adopt-a-highway program can register at https://www.ncdot.gov/programs/AAH/.
A Robeson County Landfill Free Day is scheduled for May 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All waste from households will be accepted free of charge. No chemicals or hazardous materials will be accepted. No more than eight tires will be accepted without charge. Contractors and businesses must pay the $36.50 per ton tipping fee on Free Day.
The landfill also is asking that the waste be separated.
There are trash cans placed throughout Lumber River State Park and the county, Garner said. Everyone is needed to help curb the county’s litter problem.
“Take the time to dispose trash. It takes volunteers, visitors, workers. It’s a team effort,” Garner said. “Take care of Mother Nature and she will take care of you.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.