CLEVELAND — Some Northeast Ohio activists are calling for a comprehensive litter education and awareness plan to combat a problem that caused ODOT to spend $7.7 million on clean-up in 17 area counties since 2015 and more than $40 million statewide.
ODOT said they have collected 700,000 bags of trash in Northeast Ohio since 2015, using what amounts to 34 years of clean-up crew hours just to try and keep pace with local roadside litter.
Litter prevention activist Robert Carillio told News 5 litter hot zones are plaguing all parts our region, especially along highway exit ramps.
Carillio believes Ohio is spending too many tax dollars on clean-up and not nearly enough on litter education, especially in local schools.
“On the back end, we’re cleaning it up but we’re not doing anything on the front end to prevent it," Carillio said. "There’s not enough education out there.”
“This is not acceptable, this should not be the new norm, it should be getting better but it’s gotten worse.”
“They’ve had this problem in the Carolina’s, they’ve had this problem in Georgia."
"The highway department stepped-up and spent some of that money that they’re clean-up litter and spent it on billboard programs, you know for awareness."
Buckeye neighborhood activist, Rob Render, told News 5 his neighborhood has been hit hard by the litter epidemic.
Render said anti-litter programs in local schools and litter prevention messages in convenience stores, where many of the disposed product originate, are desperately needed.
Render said parents are also part of the solution.
“The first educator is at home, so you got to teach these things at home," Render said.
"When you get them in elementary school, that’s the next place that you have an opportunity to weigh-in and have an impact on these young people’s thinking.”
Chip Bromley, Director of the Shaker Square Alliance, told News 5 business owners must get involved in a comprehensive effort to reduce the local litter problem.
“It would help the sense of pride and the sense of the community if they maintained their properties,” Bromley said.
“It would offer a sense of hope a resistance to the blight that is part of these neighborhoods.”
“I think it would help people understand that is not something where you just take your stuff and throw it on the ground.”
In response, Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin will now look into finding the funding to help launch a comprehensive litter education plan.
“It would behoove us to have ODOT, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, definitely the city and others to look at best practices and really do an aggressive campaign,” Griffin said.
"I will look to propose this effort when the city starts finance committee budget hearings on Feb. 20."