California Freeways Get Trashed


Photo credit: tswartz

The erstwhile Golden State may have lost some of its eco-conscious gleam: A story in Press-Telegram reports that freeway garbage in Los Angeles and Ventura counties rose nearly 30 percent to about 50,000 cubic yards in 2006, enough to fill about 6,300 dump trucks. (We're assuming that this number is a comparison with data from 2005; the reporter isn't clear about this.)

Northern California experienced a 34 percent rise in freeway trash—everything from used tissues to couches—along the region's roadways, according to the California Department of Transport, better known as Caltrans. San Diego and Imperial counties, meanwhile, saw a 12 percent increase."You think people are more environmentally conscious now than in the past," says Daniel Freeman, Caltrans deputy district director of maintenance. "Yet people don't seem to have any qualms about tossing fast-food wrappers out the window. It surprises me."

Picking up after litter bugs doesn't come cheap—Caltrans spent around $60 million last year, $20 million more than it did in previous years.

The No. 1 piece of trash found on the freeways: cigarette butts. In an attempt to curb butt flickers, Keep California Beautiful, a statewide education organization has started giving away portable car ashtrays.

Fast-food wrappers that drift across freeway on-ramps near food outlets are also the top trash complaint Caltrans receives.

Stephanie Barger, executive director of Earth Resource Foundation, an environmental educational nonprofit based in Costa Mesa says that American tend to overstate their concern for the environment. While 75 percent of Americans think they are environmentally friendly, less than 2 percent actually are, Barger says. "They love to say they're green," she says. "They say, `I put my bottle in the recycling bin.' But you're supposed to do that."

We guess most people just don't give a hoot these days. ::Press-Telegram

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