Litter bugs wasting millions of Alabama tax dollars

Litter lined Interstate-65 in Mobile on Monday, July 16. (Kati Weis, WALA)

Did you know, every time you litter on state highways, you're wasting state tax dollars?

This month, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is setting up a "Trash Costs Cash" campaign to educate folks about the costs of littering.

Last year alone, ALDOT said it spent $6.8 million to clean up trash on roadways across Alabama.

In Baldwin County, ALDOT spent $250,000 last year to clean up litter, and in Mobile County, ALDOT spent $560,000.

ALDOT said all those tax dollars could have gone to other important projects, like resurfacing projects and paving roads, if people hadn't littered.

Katelyn Turner with ALDOT said there are a few reasons why ALDOT is required to clean up the roadway trash.

"Litter has negative consequences for our environment, it's a safety hazard to motorists, it pollutes our drinking water," said Turner. "We want people who travel through our state to be able to enjoy the state's natural beauty, enjoy clean beaches, clean roadways. We don't want them to get a negative perception of the way we maintain our state if there's litter everywhere."

Now, some local taxpayers are hoping litter bugs will stop wasting their hard-earned money.

"Think before they litter, because it's costing the state too much money to invest in the litter project, and they need to consider that that money could be utilized in other areas," said Roquanda Bowie, a local teacher.

If that's not enough motivation to stop littering, consider the penalties involved.

"Littering has a hefty penalty, it's a class C misdemeanor, so those convicted can expect a $250 minimum fine, and any subsequent conviction would be a $500 fine," said Turner. Tuner also offered a couple tips to prevent littering: if you're hauling something, make sure to keep everything on your trailer secure, so nothing flies off while you're driving, and keep a trash bag in your car, so you're not tempted to throw it out the window.

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