By HYONHEE SHIN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Southeast Michigan lawmakers are pushing for cleaner urban areas by rewarding people who report littering and illegal dumping.
Under a bill by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, tipsters would get 50 percent of any fine paid by violators.
Littering is illegal, with a maximum fine of $400 and a maximum 90-day jail sentence.
The goal is to stop people from littering, said co-sponsor Bob Constan, D-Dearborn Heights.
“There’s construction and paint material everywhere,” he said. “But it’s more serious that people throw away trash.”
Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware, D-Detroit, said littering is a big problem in the urban communities, such as Detroit.
“It’s getting worse,” she said. “I’m afraid to say, but I think no one really can say why it’s worsening. We are just working hard to clean up our neighborhoods.”
To cope with increasing violations, the Department of Transportation (MDOT) and a number of counties have created cleanup programs, such as Adopt-A-Highway and CLEAN.
Adopt-A-Highway began in 1990. Since then, volunteers have collected more than 1 million bags of trash. Currently, 2,600 groups participate in the program and have adopted about 5,700 miles of highways.
In a typical year, more than 60,000 bags of trash are removed from the highways, said MDOT Director Kirk Steudle.
The program also saves taxpayers about $1.2 million a year by using volunteers instead of paid work crews, Steudle said.
In 2004, Wayne County launched a program named CLEAN, for County Lending Environmental Assistance to Neighborhoods, to fight illegal dumping.
Under the program, when a community group or local organization files a request, the county provides a complete cleanup of an area, according to the Wayne County Department of Environment. In return, the host community pledges that the site will be monitored and kept clean in the future.
“We are trying to help our municipalities, communities or groups,” said Robert Ratz, director of the department’s Land Resource Management Division.
Ratz said a site selection committee evaluates requests and schedules eight to 10 projects during two rounds of cleanup per year.
“Abandoned waste or illegal dumping is a serious problem for them,” he said. “There’s a public health and safety issue involved, and it gives negative perceptions on the community and its citizens.”
Constan, the Dearborn Heights lawmaker, said citizen help is crucial to finding and fining violators.
“If you see somebody dumping trash, help impose a civil fine for the action by reporting it so we can control illegal dumping of trash,” he said.
Ware said she supports the reward idea. “That sounds pretty good, it would help reduce garbage in the neighborhood and communities.”
Dave Nyberg, government and public relations manager for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said people need to be motivated.
“Litter is an important problem on a large scale,” he said. “There was a similar program in the past but it wasn’t being really used, so the program needs incentive for people to do that.”
Metro Detroit co-sponsors are Reps. David Nathan, D-Detroit; Douglas Geiss, D-Taylor; Coleman Young, D-Detroit; Gabe Leland, D-Detroit; Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland; Ed Clemente, D-Lincoln Park; and Shanelle Jackson, D-Detroit.
The bill is pending in the House Great Lakes and Environment Committee.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.