You may not have noticed, but Durham has a fair amount of litter. Our streets, schools, parks, and neighborhoods are filled with trash from cigarette butts to bottles, cans, plastic bags, and even items like car tires and shoes.
“First impressions are the lasting impressions,” said David Harris, a former Keep Durham Beautiful Board Member and long-time volunteer with the Durham Community Litter Index. “The appearance of the gateways into our city is what visitors see and develop first opinions about Durham.”
As Durhamites, we have a lot of pride. There is exciting energy here in the Bull City. Durham is teeming with talented local artists, authors, and the city is a nationally recognized foodie destination. But the phrase, “Keep it Dirty, Durham,” is not intended to be taken literally.
Litter hurts. Litter costs approximately $15 million in taxpayer dollars to clean up each year. Litter reduces tourism, hampers economic development, and encourages vandalism and crime. Litter contaminates our drinking water and is detrimental for plants and wildlife. Litter even causes accidents, with thousands of automobile accidents each year in the U.S. classified as litter-related.
So, what do we do about it?
On June 11th, Keep Durham Beautiful will be spearheading the 11th annual Litter Index and is looking for community members to get involved. Keep Durham Beautiful is a non-profit affiliate of Keep America Beautiful that works in collaboration with the City of Durham and Durham County to engage and inspire individuals to take greater responsibility for their community environment. Keep Durham Beautiful, with the help of dedicated volunteers, has collected data annually on litter levels in the city since 2005.
What is the Litter Index?
Developed by Keep America Beautiful, the Litter Index is a quantitative measure used across the nation to gauge roadside litter levels. Routes throughout the city are scored on a scale from one to four, with a score of one indicating “no litter” and a score of four indicating the area is “extremely littered.” The index is used to determine the effectiveness of litter campaigns and identify litter “hot spots” in the community for future clean ups.
Teams of volunteers receive training before driving along pre-determined routes to monitor the amount of litter along the roads. “Each route includes business/commercial districts and residential communities and consists of urban, suburban, rural and county roads,” said David Harris, who has participated in the Litter Index for the past 10 years, taking on various roles as an evaluator, driver, coordinator, trainer, co-chair, and chair.
Results from the 2014 index indicate that roadside litter has increased in Durham. The average score across all the routes in 2014 was 1.804, up from a score of 1.35 in 2013. These results suggest the need to take action now. Litter is an individual behavior and each of us can do our part to make a difference. From joining a neighborhood cleanup, adopting a street or bus stop, or by modeling good behavior in your home, school, work or neighborhood YOU have the ability to reduce litter and increase litter literacy in this city we love.
If you are interested in joining this year’s Litter Index efforts, please contact email@example.com or register here. The Litter Index will take place on Thursday, June 11th from 8:30 am – 1 pm at the Forest Hills Neighborhood Clubhouse. Coffee, bagels, and gratitude will be provided for all volunteers.