USA – new litter problem: human waste on freeways

Plastic bottles filled with urine are becoming a common sight along the highways, particularly at freeway interchanges, reports the Tri-City Herald in Washington State, USA. From March 4 to Nov. 27, 2002, one Adams County highway cleanup crew picked up 2,666 jugs of urine and 67 bags with human excrement in them. That’s just one crew out of about 40 crews working in Adams County, and Cagle hasn’t yet tallied the results for 2003.

The problem has prompted Adams County Waste Reduction & Recycling to take out a full-page newspaper ad. The ad features a photo of a plastic milk jug filled with urine, prefaced with a message: “Okay, One last time: This is not a urinal.”

Megan Warfield, litter programme coordinator for the state Department of Ecology, had the posters printed and made them available for any county that wanted them. About a dozen counties have ordered copies, she said. “All of the cleanup crews encounter it. It’s pretty much the same around the state,” she said. “Ironically, they’re mostly found on interchanges near rest areas. Why can’t they stop there?” Warfield said human waste falls under a newly created category that the Legislature created last spring: potentially dangerous litter. Human waste, dirty diapers, cigarettes, cigars, tobacco or other items that can start a fire, and hypodermic needles or medical instruments designed to cut or pierce, fall into that category. The fine is US$1,025 for anyone caught dumping such waste. People are encouraged to report violators to 866-LITTER-1. But the new penalty doesn’t seem to be slowing down the problem.

Warfield, of Ecology, said “The prevalence of plastic bottles may be contributing to the rise of this. We call them ‘trucker bottles,’ but we’ve done surveys and people have admitted to doing this when they don’t want to stop.” “We’ve gone back and forth on whether this is a health issue,” she said, adding that 99 percent of urine is sterile, but could be dangerous if it contains hepatitis or blood.

Gary Lembacher, who oversees the litter program in Eastern Washington, said he does not let the kids on his work crews pick the bottles up. “I just don’t trust any liquids,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s pesticide or if there’s something used in methamphetamine.”

Lembacher said he’s in his 16th year at his job and that during the first 10 years, no one ever found bags with human excrement. He’s also noticed the increasing amount of urine jugs found on the road. “It’s a big problem and it’s growing,” he said. “It’s not just truckers.”

Taxpayer money not only pays for highway cleanup, but also pays for the state Department of Transportation to dispose of the human waste at the landfills. “I don’t know what the answer is,” he said. “People are getting more out of control.”

Ano da Publicação: 2003
Fonte: WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #37-2003: December 20, 2003
Autor: Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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