Stephens Elementary students are being recruited to help with litter in the area.

Jamie Mitchell, a Clean Campus coordinator with Alabama PALS (People Against a Littered State), stopped by to help the students learn what litter is and how to combat it.

“Littering can be stuff thrown out the window of a car,” Mitchell said. “That can be controlled – just don’t do it. Half of littering is accidental but preventable.”

Mitchell said accidental littering includes things coming from the back of truck traveling down the road and offered suggestions on how to prevent all forms of littering.

“If it’s in the back of a truck, make sure it is tied down or covered with a tarp,” Mitchell said. “If you have it with you in the car, hang on to it until you get somewhere you can put in a garbage can.”

Mitchell said throwing something as simple as an apple core or leftover food on the side of the road can present a problem.

“Animals might come up and eat it,” Mitchell said. “We don’t want to think about just the beauty but for the safety of animals too.”

Mitchell explained to the students what happens to trash and litter.

“A lot of time we just throw things away,” Mitchell said. “We put it in a trash can or recycle bin but we don’t know where it goes. The worst case we throw it out the window on the ground.”

Mitchell explained how trash ends up in a landfill.

“A landfill is basically a big trash can in the ground,” Mitchell said. “It gets covered with dirt.”

Mitchell pulled out a water bottle asking the students how old they thought it was.

“I have had this bottle since 2011,” Mitchell said. “You have changed since 2011 but this bottle has not. Some scientists say it could last 500 years.”

Littering is expensive if someone gets caught.

“There are signs out there that warn people about about a $500 fine if they litter,” Mitchell said. “You can also be pulled over and written a ticket if you are caught littering.”

Mitchell offered tips on reducing the amount of waste the students might produce.

“Avoid plastic where you can,” Mitchell said. “Just imagine if everyone in this room used a reusable water bottle this week. With 500 students, that would be more than 2,000 plastic bottles not in trash cans or possibly being left somewhere to become litter.”

Mitchell said there are ways to repurpose much of what is thrown away. She said plastic bottles can be mixed with cotton and woven into cloth or be used as a bird feeder. Other things can be repurposed too.

“We all like Capri Suns,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have to throw them away. They can be made into bags using Duck Tape. Jewelry can be made from the pull tops of cans. Murals can be made from plastic caps.”

Mitchell said Alabama PALS will be holding a recycle art contest and poster contest where students can win prize money.

Teachers at Stephens Elementary School have put litter and recycling in many of the things they teach from art to science. Dr. Mary Holloway said fourth-graders will be learning more about litter throughout the year and at the water festival in the spring.

Alabama Power provided each of the students with trash pickers and a garbage bag.

“You all get you own trash picker,” Clean Community Partnership’s Jacob Meacham said. “You will get them at the end of the school day. I want to encourage you to get involved in cleanups. You’ll find it’s good exercise.”

Mitchell said preventing littering is up to the individual.

“It is a personal choice,” she said. “You can choose not to litter. You can choose not to roll the window down and throw it out.”

Mitchell left the students with the message they can be the leaders in eradicating litter.

“We want you to go home and tell someone about litter,” Mitchell said. “Imagine how many people would know if you just told one person about it. It would be huge.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.

Staff Writer

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.