Utah has many things going for it, including famous national parks and some of the world's most spectacular scenery. Unfortunately, the scenic splendor is frequently spoiled by roadside litter.
Tourists, particularly foreign visitors, when questioned by state officials, frequently point out that Utah is "badly littered."Clearly, if Utah is to improve its image, it must clean up the mess. And the Utah Department of Transportation is embarking on a three-year program starting May 1 to do just that. The anti-litter campaign will have the theme, "Don't waste Utah."
A major effort to educate and remind people to not litter in the first place and to help clean up in any case is being patterned after programs in other states. A similar project in Texas reduced litter by 40 percent in a year. Utah should do even better.
At the moment, trash is thrown on Utah highways faster than crews can clean it up, despite an estimated $500,000 being spent on the problem.
How much litter is there? It is estimated at a piece every square yard along all roads and highways, as well as neighborhood streets. Last year, people from the Beaver Mountain ski resort and members of the ski patrol picked up litter in Logan Canyon. They gathered 14,000 pounds in four months. In the Department of Transportation's Richfield District, maintenance workers picked up cans when they happened to see them. This was not a major cleanup project, but they gathered 17,000 cans in one year.
Who litters? All kinds of people. A Texas study showed 18-to-25-year-old males in pickup trucks were the worst offenders. There are more pickup trucks per capita in Utah than in Texas. This does not mean Utahns can blame pickup truck drivers and go back to sleep. Many people are guilty to some degree.
As part of the cleanup campaign, UDOT is asking civic groups, Boy Scouts, private companies, religious groups or any organization, to "Adopt a Highway." This means the group will have a two-mile stretch of highway where it will collect litter three times a year.
UDOT will provide training, safety vests and litter bags for the projects, as well as road signs indicating who is doing the cleaning during the project. Information on "Adopt a Highway," is available by telephone at 965-4104.
Utahns should participate enthusiastically. It's a chance to improve the environment in a positive meaningful way and make Utah a cleaner, more attractive place. And even better than cleaning up would be to refrain from littering in the first place.