Monday, May 28, 2007
Careful on the road this travel weekend!
"In California and across the nation, where some freeway shoulders have come to resemble weekend yard sales, the nature of road debris has changed, and litter anthropologists are now studying the phenomenon. Where “deliberate” litter used to reign — those blithely tossed fast-food wrappers and the like — “unintentional” or “negligent” litter from poorly secured loads is making its presence felt.
Steven R. Stein, a litter analyst for R. W. Beck, a waste-consulting firm in Maryland, attributes the change to more trash-hauling vehicles, including recycling trucks, and the ubiquity of pickup trucks on the country’s highways. In 1986, Mr. Stein said, two-thirds of the debris was deliberate, but surveys now show the litter seesaw balanced.
He said the two most recent surveys indicated a further increase in unintentional litter. In Georgia, which recently quantified its litter, 66 percent of road debris comes from unintentional litter, largely unsecured loads. A study in Tennessee last year showed that 70 percent of the state’s debris was unintentional.
By dint of its climate, size, population, lengthy growing season, increasingly long commutes and, perhaps, its casual lifestyle, California is a road-debris leader. It is also home to the country’s largest number of registered vehicles — 32 million, twice that of No. 2 Texas — and roughly four million pickup trucks, the most of any state, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington.
No other state spends more on litter removal, in excess of $55 million, said Christine Flowers-Ewing, the executive director of Keep California Beautiful, a nonprofit environmental education organization.
Motorists in California can be fined if anything other than feathers from live birds or water should escape. (In Nebraska, the exception is corn stalks; in Kentucky, coal.)
Along with mudslides, brush fires and earthquakes, chance encounters with a set of box springs, a chintz cushion or a crate of lettuces are the daily stuff of radio traffic updates, recounted in excruciating detail."
Highway Debris, Long an Eyesore, Grows as Hazard
PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
NYT, May 11, 2007
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