Mayor Sandy Stimpson admits he might be losing his self-described “war on litter,” but he’s not yet ready to retreat.
Standing in front of a big, yellow dumpster at a recycling drop-off point in midtown, he told reporters he wouldn’t give up.
“Anytime you’re not winning and the score isn’t in your favor, yes, it’s discouraging,” Stimpson said. “We’re going to evolve and change until we get there.”
Despite a concerted effort by Stimpson since his election in 2013, the city’s litter issue rears its head every time a downpour empties into local rivers, streams and ponds. Areas near Arlington Park and Dog River seem to suffer the worst, despite Stimpson touting a 28 percent increase in recycling over the last year. In a similar press conference about a year ago, Stimpson announced the city’s participation in recycling accounted for a dismal 6 percent reduction in the waste stream.
“There is not a single person who would say we’re where we need to be,” Stimpson said of the issue. “We have made progress, but we are not satisfied.”
Consultant Don Irby said despite the the 28 percent increase, the percentage of the waste stream that is recycled is still low. He chalked up the slow increase to a cultural issue.
In addition to education, Stimpson said enforcement has been a problem. Currently, littering is handled criminally, and those prosecuted pay a $100 fine for a level 1 infraction and up to $250 for a level 2 infraction. Currently the city writes about 25 tickets per month.
Stimpson said his office and its litter task force would be looking to change a state law that would allow litter infractions to be handled civilly, similar to how the city has handled the blight issue.
While there are few specifics, Stimpson alluded to making it harder for business owners and others to “work the system.” For instance, he spoke of possibly adding an unpaid fine to the business license fee for an offending business.
Stimpson has also opted for his litter task force, made up of a consortium of city departments, to take the place of the city’s branch of Keep Mobile Beautiful. The KMB board, comprising council appointments, still exists, as does the nonprofit group.
KMB board member Kris Enzor said the entity is still active and is currently working on a grant for downtown tree replacement.
After a powerful rainstorm a little more than a week ago, litter gathered near Arlington Park. At the time, Debi Foster, executive director of the Peninsula of Mobile group, seemed skeptical that much could be done at this point to stem the litter tide. She admitted it would be a slow process.
Stimpson seems enthusiastic about a plan to install mini litter traps. A $500,000 grant has been used to install 10 “litter getters” along Three Mile Creek, while another grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will provide litter traps in Bon Secour and Dog River.
At the press event Monday, Stimpson announced a partnership with Earth Resources, which would allow the city recycling sites on Pinehill Drive and at the Western Administrative Complex near Langan Park to take plastic grocery bags and certain electronics. Television sets will not be accepted.