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Ohio Starts Anti-Litter Campaign to Clean Roadsides

Litterbugs like Franklin County. The Ohio Department of Transportation says more litter is picked up from highway berms in Franklin County than from any other county in Ohio. So, O-DOT and the Solid Waste Authority have begun using billboards and a telephone hotline to catch litterbugs.

"We are the crossroads of Ohio, but we don't have to be the trash can for Ohio." Says Jack Marchbanks, Deputy Director for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He oversees an eight-county area including Franklin and surrounding counties. He sees alot of litter and even some larger discarded items as he drives area roads.

Marchbanks says roadside litter is more than unsightly. Its costly to taxpayers. O-Dot says it spent 10-million dollars last year picking up after litter bugs and trash dumpers. Now, the agency wants some help from other drivers. The Ohio Department of Transportation and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio have posted eight billboards on area highways and some smaller signs on COTA buses urging drivers and passengers to report littering and illegal dumping.

Swaco Director Mike Long says Franklin and surrounding counties have too few deputies to catch litterbugs. Long says calls to the litter hotline will go directly to the environmental crimes unit. The unit will track the license plate number and then send a warning letter to the owner of the vehicle. Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Heather Robinson says if deputies cite a litterbug, jail time is possible, but community service might also be required.

As the campaign against litterbugs gets underway, O-D-O-T has done a study of roadside trash and found that a large percentage of the litter is cigarette butts. And, Marchbanks says, if not picked up, the butts will lay on the roadside for a longtime. "Many people think that cigarette butts are biodegradable and therefore its O-K to toss them on the ground. The fact is they're mostly plastic and they last as long as Twinkies." Says Marchbanks.

The anti-litter campaign will not last that long. The billboards will come down in six-months.