Talkin’ Trash: The Importance of Recycling and Litter Prevention in Arkansas’s Communities
by Colbie Jones, director of Keep Arkansas Beautiful
Earth Day happens just once a year, but the choices we make every day affect Arkansas’s well-being. In 2022, Keep Arkansas Beautiful had more than 17,000 volunteers statewide, picked up 457 tons of litter, and cleaned 2,005 miles of roadside. This year, join thousands of volunteers in “Investing in Our Planet” and help prevent litter, recycle and keep Arkansas beautiful.
Over the past two years, Arkansas has made great strides in local and statewide litter prevention, yet litter still impacts our state’s economy and ecosystem. Think of the countless waterfowl and animals that call Arkansas home and the visitors that travel from all over to see them. A fast food bag or cigarette butt entering animals’ habitat can pollute their food sources or, worse, directly harm the animal. Consider Arkansas’s state flower, the Apple Blossom, covered in litter or our state bird, the mockingbird, pecking at scraps in your fast food bag. These are not natural occurrences in Arkansas, but they’re starting to become more and more prevalent.
Littering is also a leading contributor to automotive accidents and roadway crashes. More than 200,000 crashes were caused by roadway debris from 2011-2014 across the U.S. There are enough factors to worry about when driving without having to navigate around litter in our path. Imagine towns and cities where our roadways aren’t covered in refuse. Commuting with one less stressor when driving with our loved ones is a change we can make. Together.
Litter in all forms is harmful to those of us who call Arkansas home and to those visiting our great state. Most importantly, littering in Arkansas is illegal.
Violators can receive between $100 and $1,000 in fines for littering, whether on public or private property. In our constantly moving, ever-changing world, taking shortcuts is easy. Sometimes, shortcuts are beneficial. But when it comes to littering, you’re actively working against countless others trying to keep Arkansas beautiful. Slow down, if only for a moment, and please help us protect the valleys, lakes, rivers and lands that make Arkansas the Natural State.
In our effort to prevent littering, Keep Arkansas Beautiful is working to promote litter prevention and recycling literacy in Arkansas. During our 2022 cleanup season, all 75 counties participated, which was a huge milestone for our organization. But the work can’t stop there. We have to continue to actively work to protect and preserve our communities. Natural resources are scarcer by the day and our nation’s push for a sustainable future only is made possible when we work to recycle materials and goods.
A key player in recycling? Businesses.
When businesses align their recycling efforts with those of their community, it not only doubles the effort - it strengthens the community as a whole. Arkansas and Keep America Beautiful offer grants and assistance for recycling programs just waiting for businesses to take advantage of them. In 2022, we rolled out our “Eats and Clean Streets” initiative to better equip businesses to do their part. When recycling is everyone’s business, we can paint a friendly, clean picture of your community, drive in visitors and revitalize the state of Arkansas.
Recycling is important, but so is recycling the right way. Simply rinsing out a peanut butter jar or throwing a box in the recycling bin doesn’t cut it. Food containers should be thoroughly cleaned, while cardboard and other recyclable materials should be broken down. The old computer that’s been sitting in your closet? It’s recyclable, too. You’d be amazed at what we can do with recyclable materials. There’s a vast network of recycling centers waiting for you in Arkansas.
I urge you to step outside, bask in the springtime sunshine and think, really think, about the small habits you can start this Earth Day. Even small ripples can make big waves. Together, we can keep Arkansas beautiful.
For more information on how you can make an impact this Earth Day, visit our website at KeepArkansasBeautiful.com or text “Volunteer” to 484848 to receive messages about upcoming volunteer opportunities.