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Looking for litter
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Newton County's annual litter index is in - and the results are somewhat disappointing. According to Keep Covington/NewtonBeautiful Director Connie Waller, the numbers have gone up and the county is back to the number they started at in 2001.

The litter index is an annual look at Newton County by districts. Members and volunteers of KCNB ride with a Newton County Sheriff's Office deputy around the county on interstates, city and county streets and rural roads and assess the litter on a numerical scale. Members visit the same areas each year and rate the areas on a scale of one (no litter) to four (a huge amount of litter). The NCSO donates the use of a deputy and a vehicle every year to KCNB.

In 2001, when the index began, the county was at 1.67, which is the number hit this year as well. Every year the index number has decreased, with the exception of 2004, when it jumped to 1.81, but in 2008 the county saw its lowest number at 1.40.

"The overall litter score is 1.67, which is between no litter and a slight amount of litter," said Waller. "It could be much worse, but 1.67 puts us right back where we started. I'm disappointed because you never want an increase."

All districts in the county saw an increase in litter except district one, which saw a slight decrease from last year. And, in what appears to be a trend, the most densely populated areas are always the worst for litter.
"The more people, the more litter," said Waller.

According to Waller, most of the litter consisted of things like fast food wrappers and drink bottles - things that could blow from the bed of a work truck or be tossed from the window of a moving vehicle.

And since county clean-up and mowing has been cut drastically, and state clean-up on roadsides has been eliminated altogether due to budget constraints, Waller believes it's more important than ever before to not toss trash on the side of the roads.

"Our goal is not to clean up but to educate so that we can eliminate the problem and the clean up isn't necessary," Waller said.

Newton County saw a 10 percent decrease in litter between 2007 and 2008. The goal of KCNB is to reduce the number again in the coming year, something they plan on discussing at their meeting on Sept. 14.

"Litter costs you is the state-wide slogan," said Waller, "and it's true. Litter costs you beauty, health, money and safety and a lot of that is money. It costs millions at the state level and thousands on the county level and it is obvious that right now we cannot waste one penny.

"It's not the litter but the litterer," said Waller. "That idea that the world is my garbage can - we've got to change that view or we'll continue to have an increase in our litter index."