Spring cleaning isn’t just for our homes. March first is the beginning of the three-month Great Arkansas Cleanup, when volunteers will shake out the rugs for out-of-state visitors.
“It is absolutely essential for tourists to get a good impression of Arkansas when they come to visit,” said Liz Philpott, volunteer program manager for Keep Arkansas Beautiful, which is part of the state Department of Parks and Tourism.
“During the summer we have so many visitors that come to enjoy our beautiful lakes and rivers and all our wonderful outdoor opportunities. So we view our spring and fall cleanups as kind of an opportunity to prepare for guests and also to clean up after them.”
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has a toll-free litter Violator Reporting System that is answered by the Arkansas State Police 24 hours a day. AHTD spokesman Danny Straessle said that more than 5,000 calls came into the hotline last year.
It is estimated that last year’s 33,000 volunteers saved the state millions in cleanup costs.
“Our agency spends in excess of $5 million annually for litter pick-up,” Straessle said. “Every little bit helps and we are pleased that our program has remained a relevant call to action. We appreciate motorists who take the time to report violators.”
Types of litter reported include paper, cans, food wrappers, bottles, construction material, cups and other packaging. The most common type of litter reported, however, was cigarette butts. There were 2,540 calls about someone throwing out the filters. Philpott said that cigarette butts are a unique problem. “People don’t realize they are made of plastic.” She said it takes at least ten years for the cigarette filters to decompose.
Philpott also said they’ve seen an increase in illegal tire dumping.
“A lot of people will go dump their tires in a remote location, not realizing that most solid waste districts will allow you to dispose of four tires for free per month,” Philpott said.
The impact of these coordinated cleanups goes beyond trying to impress visitors. It can also increase home values, create a sense of community for the volunteers, and generate pride.
For more information, and to register as a volunteer, go to the Keep Arkansas Beautiful website at www.keeparkansasbeautiful.com.