Each year in Louisiana, municipalities, parishes and state agencies spend more than $40 million on litter abatement. As shocking as that sounds, that’s only the beginning of the true cost of litter in Louisiana. The indirect economic costs of litter are also considerable.

A littered, neglected community decreases property values by 7 percent, attracts criminal elements, deters business growth and contributes to the loss of existing and new business. Litter tarnishes the image of the state and local communities, resulting in a loss in tourism.

Litter impacts the environment by contributing to habitat destruction, especially in marine and aquatic ecosystems, and to pet and wildlife injury and death due to litter entanglement, toxicity and ingestion. Discarded litter can be a breeding ground for vermin and disease-causing bacteria, a public health risk. Public safety is threatened when a discarded lit cigarette causes a roadside fire or debris on the roadway leads to a vehicular wreck.

With a network of 39 statewide affiliates and 23,000 volunteers, Keep Louisiana Beautiful is the state’s leading nonprofit organization working to reduce litter and waste, increase recycling and enhance the beauty of our local communities. Education and behavioral change are the cornerstones of our organization. But we cannot do it alone. We need people from all walks of life to be actively engaged and personally responsible for their actions. We need leaders to come together to make a clean Louisiana a priority.

On March 13, Keep Louisiana Beautiful will spearhead Leaders Against Litter, an event aimed to raise awareness of the litter problem in Louisiana and gather support from leaders of all walks of life and elected officials. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, along with state agencies such as Volunteer Louisiana, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Transportation and Development, will stand in unity with KLB affiliates and thousands of citizens publicly pledging to:

SPEAK UP and spread the word that litter is not acceptable in Louisiana;

PICK UP litter whenever they see it; and

STAND UP and lead the way for a litter-free Louisiana.

Cities and parishes from Abbeville, Baton Rouge, Bossier, Eunice, Hammond, Jefferson, Lacombe, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Mandeville, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Monroe, West Monroe, Opelousas, Shreveport, Slidell, St. James, St. John, St. Mary and Terrebonne will conduct morning local cleanups followed by the pledge signing. Dardenne will hold a press conference in Baton Rouge announcing the collective effort and calling citizens to join in by volunteering for a cleanup with their local Keep Louisiana Beautiful affiliate from March to May.

Won’t you make a stand for a cleaner, more beautiful Louisiana? Volunteer, speak up and pick up. Get involved by calling (985) 502-9024.

Susan Russell

executive director, Keep Louisiana Beautiful

Baton Rouge