It was in this space a week ago today that we lamented the fact that Robeson County was looking more and more like a dump, with our roads scattered with trash and no coordinated and determined effort to remove the litter.
So we were glad to see Steve Edge, the director of Solid Waste for the county, grab the baton and go before the Board of the Commissioners with a plan to clean up our mess. Edge is asking for between $125,000 and $150,000 in the Solid Waste budget that takes effect on July 1 for the clean-up effort, which he says would be used to hire officers who would enforce littering laws with the threat of a fine.
Edge is attacking on the correct front — preventative. It’s clear that the trash is piling up because Robeson County can no longer depend heavily on crews of prison inmates in orange suites patrolling the roads stuffing trash bags. The closing of the prison in Robeson County has cost us some of that free labor, and the state, in an effort to reduce expenses, has also cut back on providing these crews.
So the best way to keep our roads clean is not only to pick up trash but to launch enforcement and education campaigns that would prevent the littering from occurring. Littering is an act of commission, so preventing it from happening should be easy — even if it isn’t. It simply requires persuading people not to do something, such as toss the fast-food wrapper, soft-drink can or cigarette butt out the window of their car. Part of the effort should be an outreach program, and we are confident that our local schools would be eager hosts.
The problem is worse here than most places for two reasons. First, we have a lot of highway and secondary road, and the trash isn’t all our own. People traveling through the county have contributed as well. Secondly, we have an undereducated populace, and many don’t understand the value of clean roads to efforts to bring professional people to the county as well as industry and new jobs.
Sheriff Kenneth Sealey was at Monday’s board meeting and told the commissioners that his deputies would keep a keener eye out for litterers, and also said he would send the memo to municipal police departments in the county asking that they do the same. The problem is that a lawman has to actually witness the littering to issue a fine, and while people who litter aren’t the brightest bulbs, most know not to toss trash on the ground with someone in uniform watching.
The commissioners acknowledged the problem and seem poised to provide the financial help that will be needed. It is a shame that in a poor county with so many needs that tax dollars have to be provided to clean up our roads, but it would be money that could pay dividends later on.