Definition from Wikipedia: Litter is waste disposed in the wrong place by unlawful human action and can vary in size of incident, occurrence or items. It can occur as small items like wrappers, large collections of waste or scatterings of litter dispersed around public places outdoors. Litter can be occasioned by malicious, careless or accidental intent and is generally disposed of illegally rather than lawfully. Litter has the potential to cause harm to human health, safety and welfare, it harms wildlife and causes environmental impact (1).
My definition of Trash: Those people who litter.
There is a great sense of accomplishment helping with and directing desert cleanup efforts. It’s not without frustration though because there are areas that get re-trashed shortly after the cleanup. Of the several afflicted areas, Box Canyon is the most frequently abused, littered with beer cans and bottles that make up the bulk, which are obviously the product of weekend-night beer parties. Underage drinking is suspect since it’s a “safe place” in a remote part of Yavapai County where little, if any, patrolling is done by law enforcement. The next most abused site is Calamity Wash, popular as an unofficial target range, with fewer beer parties and serves as a graffiti workshop for rock painting.
Recently, three cleanup events have taken place. The first was at an old dump where 3000 pounds, mostly scrap metal, was collected. More work is needed before cleanup of this site is completed; the second was removing a pile of 56 tires that were illegally dumped on Scenic View road near Box Canyon; and the last was at Box Canyon, a “perpetual” garbage dump. Cleanup of other sites are planned for this fall when cooler temperatures arrive. If you know of a littered site please identify it with routing and/or GPS coordinates so they may be included in future cleanup planning. Report the information to the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation office, 928-684-7473.
There is a constant battle with roadside litter along Scenic View, Blue Tank, Constellation Roads, Calamity Wash and the length of the Hassayampa River south from the Hassayampa River Preserve to a couple of miles north of Box Canyon. The source of litter along the roads is no different than along the highways for that matter but along the river, most is attributed to the ATV/jeep crowd since there is comparatively little litter to be found along the horse and hiking trails.
So what can be done? Foremost, report a violation (2). If you witness someone littering in the state of Arizona, you can report the incident by calling the litter hotline toll free at 1-877-3LITTER (354-8837). Please make sure to answer all the questions, including your name and address, to ensure a follow-up to the incident. A letter will be sent to the offender notifying them that they were observed littering and asking them to refrain from littering in the future.
If roadway debris poses an immediate threat to safety, call 9-1-1. If you see large accumulations of debris along the freeway that is not in the roadway, contact the Arizona Department of Transportation at 602-712-7355.
There is legislation to increase the penalty for littering but the issue of catching and prosecuting the “trasher” remains. Requiring a substantial deposit on containers would, in my opinion, be more direct and immediate way of reducing the litter: a disincentive to at least to those wanting to get their money back; and an incentive to those who would earn money in gathering the trash. Eleven states but not Arizona do this and it seems to work well. Big business has always opposed deposits though.
Education, yes but that will take some time and is not a near time solution. But nonetheless it would be an additional factor in reducing litter if included in the school curriculum and with parental action by example.
Box Canyon and Calamity wash require more aggressive action. Initially, an occasional patrol by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and a Citizen’s Patrol group, particularly during “party time”, would be a start. Word would then get around to the under-age alcohol drinkers and cause them to go elsewhere? Litter barrels would help but would need servicing.
What about feces and urine? Glad you asked. Pits for feces should be located at least 200 feet from water sources (rivers, lakes, etc.) to avoid possible bacterial contamination as well as away from trails. Organic soil is preferred over sandy mineral soil for faster decomposition. Also avoid concentration of pits around campsites. Pits should be covered with a reasonably thick layer of soil to prevent access by animals and flies. Toilet paper and feminine hygiene products should NOT be placed in pits but placed in a plastic bag that can be sealed and carried out for proper disposal. A pit for urine is unnecessary; just perform your duty off trail and or a short distance away from water. Keep in mind this is a basic practice. Other areas will likely have a stricter policy.
Always leave a site cleaner than you found it even if the litter is not yours! Parents, if you and your children visit a littered site, please think about what you are teaching your youngsters if you not only remover your trash but a bit more!
The Moose Brigade report provides litter statistics by quantity and vendor product. Future reports will include cleanup efforts conduced by the Wickenburg Clean and Beautiful (WCB) under the sponsorship of the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation (WCF).
As always, appreciation is extended to all those volunteers who have helped in these major cleanup efforts, to those folks who remove the litter scattered along the roads and highways and to Sickles Sanitation Ind. for final disposal and the Bureau of Land Management for resources.