ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Rockingham County is taking a tough stance on trash. County commissioners recently approved a zero-tolerance litter resolution. County Manager Lance Metzler explained why commissioners are supporting the plan.
"We feel like it is important to make sure our roadsides are clean and the commissioners have decided we are not going to put up with it anymore," Metzler said.
Metzler believes roadside debris comes from multiple sources. Some folks are tossing out garbage as they drive down the street. Others are using the cover of night to dump unwanted items like old televisions, clothes and furniture. The last source is uncovered trucks driving to and from the county landfill. Metzler encouraged commercial drivers to cover their loads.
"I've put out an email to the commercial haulers that we will be enforcing this full force because we are a zero-tolerance litter county." Metzler said.
Anti-littering signs will be placed at spots known for trash. Local law enforcement agencies will also be on the lookout. Sheriff Sam Page said his agency is ready.
"We are going to have unmarked vehicles. If they see violations, they will issue citations," Page said.
Citations could be as high as $1,000. The county is also looking at adding a part-time litter removal program to go along with the current small team of Rockingham County jail inmates that volunteer to pick up roadside trash. Four to six inmates can collect as much as 100 bags of trash a day.
"The inmates, they do a great job and we appreciate it," Page said. "When they are done, they learn good work ethics and it helps them. At the end of the program, I give them a diploma."
Enforcement is just one part of the zero-tolerance plan. People's habits also need to change. Metzler said the county will create an outreach program to persuade people from dumping.
"We want to be in the school system to educate children that littering is not acceptable," Metzler said. "So when mom and dad throw trash out the window the kids will say, 'Mom, dad you are not suppose to do that.'"
Metzler added that trash bags for cars will be handed out. Page hopes community engagement will keep trash in the dump instead of on the roads.
"Keep it in your vehicle and take it to a receptacle to drop it off," Page said. "Don't throw it out in Rockingham County because we live in a great place and we want to keep Rockingham County beautiful."