Solid Waste director: Education a key to reducing, eliminating litter

Published 8:11 am Friday, April 7, 2017

Educating Boyle County residents will likely remain a major key to eliminating littering and open dumps under the Solid Waste Department’s next five-plan.

“Anybody that knows me knows — it’s education, education, education,” Solid Waste Coordinator Donna Fechter said.

Boyle’s Solid Waste Committee reviewed plans for combating litter and open dumps Thursday morning as part of its ongoing planning process for the next five-year plan, which will guide solid waste projects and programs from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2022.

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Fechter highlighted many things Boyle County residents might not be educated about concerning solid waste, including:

• Boyle County has 10 30-yard open containers that are available for free to anyone who has or finds an open dump on their property. Boyle County Solid Waste employees cannot come onto private property to clean up an open dump, but the county is more than happy to provide the containers for disposal free of charge, Fechter said.

“My main focus is cleaning up the agricultural areas out there that we can get cleaned up,” she said. “… We will go out of our way to help anybody that is cleaning up something, especially if they just bought the property.”

Fechter emphasized the containers are not available for construction work or regular waste; they’re only available for clean-up of open dumps.

Boyle County has been largely free of visible open dumps for many years, but many persist in places that are not visible from roadways or even from aerial surveys due to foliage cover.

“We know they’re still out there,” Fechter said. “I’d like to think there are none, but I know there have to be some.”

Fechter said this is why education is extremely important — because the only way to get to and clean up these remaining open dumps is for people who know about them to tell Solid Waste so the county can provide a container for cleanup.

• Many items people don’t usually think about can be very bad when they turn into litter in the environment, including cigarette butts and plastic grocery bags.

“Let me tell you something that we tend to overlook — this is litter coming out of cars and things like that,” she said. “… Animals, livestock, can become seriously endangered by flying plastic bags. Cows can eat them and they will die. So we really need to get people more vigilant about containing their litter, like their plastic bags.”

Litter can be very harmful to local wildlife, as well, Fechter said.

“These plastic bags are very dangerous and people don’t realize the danger — not just the unsightliness and the unhealthiness of litter, but the fact that you do compromise our wildlife.”

• Boyle County needs to continue working with businesses and industries to make sure waste is being managed appropriately because it can have big consequences for the local economy.

“Litter is just to me deadly anywhere. You want to talk about economic development? If you don’t have a clean community, I don’t care what you’ve got, you’re not going to get anybody to come and set up a business in your community,” Fechter said. “So you need to get business and industry on the same page.”

• Some of the most problematic roads in Boyle County for litter are those in the area of the county’s convenience centers, where thousands of people bring their trash for disposal.

That’s because people are often traveling those roads with trash in their vehicles as they drive to the convenience centers, Fechter said, noting that a new policy that convenience centers will not accept loose waste is helping with this problem.

“Those convenience centers are a source of roadside litter, just inherently being the way they are,” she said. “We try to keep them as clean as we can.”

In order to educate Boyle County residents, Solid Waste uses many different strategies, including radio ads, the local newspaper, ads at the movie theater, educational programs in the schools and dissemination of information through the website.

The chapter of the five-year plan draft that addresses littering and open dumps plans mainly to keep the existing programs and plans in place.

The Solid Waste Committee still has four more meetings on the five-year plan before it presents the plan for a 30-day public review. If the plan is then approved by the Boyle County Fiscal Court and the state, it would go into effect Jan. 1, after the current five-year plan expires on Dec. 31.

Fechter said the plan, which is required by the state, will probably be largely a continuation of current plans, but the Solid Waste Committee is always open to new ideas.

“The five-year plan is like our way of telling the state we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing,” she said. “But that does not mean we cannot create better programs if we find them. We’re always looking for anything that can assist us with better education, better disposal methods, better collection methods.”