Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Researchers Take Scientific Look at Litter

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Researchers Take Scientific Look at Litter

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (ANS)--If it seems like there's more litter on the streets after sanitation experts make their rounds, you may not be imagining things, a new study shows.

By collecting litter along the routes of garbage and recycling trucks before and after they came through a neighborhood, researchers at the University of Florida discovered there was more litter on the ground after the trucks came through than what had piled up the week before.

"Intuitively, I felt there was a problem and I wanted to measure it," said John Schert, director of the Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management at the university's College of Engineering. The center is something of a litter think tank that among its many projects has documented errant cigarette butts and plastic peanuts at 600 locations around the state over a four-year period.

For this project, Schert hired an assistant who agreed to bicycle around a residential neighborhood of about 100 homes three times a day for four months, photographing and cataloging all litter larger than four square inches, or the size of a gum wrapper.

The amount of garbage varied from day to day, but after 15 weeks on the job, researcher Stephen Bissonnette had collected 229 bits of litter before the trucks arrived, 108 additional pieces after the recycling trucks left, and another 283 pieces of trash after the garbage trucks made their rounds.

The root of the problem may lie in the automated garbage trucks that are something of a trend nationwide, Schert said. Because they only require a single operator, who directs an automated claw to pluck the bins from the curb and tip them into the truck, they have helped to dramatically reduce labor costs and injuries to workers. But the flip side is that one person may not be able to see and respond to every bit of litter inadvertently spilled after a pick-up.

None of this is news to Bubba Bussard, district manager of Boone Waste Management, whose trucks were the ones that Bissonnette followed. …

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