Civic groups, students, businesses and local government have been enthusiastic in supporting the Lebanon Rotary Club’s intention to sweep litter from the city’s streets.
“This is not just a Rotary program,” Jerry Erskine told members of the Boone County Healthy Coalition Wednesday, Feb. 1. “It’s our initiative, but there’s no way we can do it by ourselves.”
During a visit to Norway for a Rotary International convention, Erskine was impressed by the absence of litter on the streets. That inspired him to suggest the Lebanon Rotary Club begin a three-year program to combat litter and boost Lebanon’s image with “Lebanon: The Cleanest City in Indiana” project.
While the project is using cigarette butts as an example of the tons of litter that is swept into Lebanon’s storm sewers and disfigures the city’s appearance, it is not an anti-smoking campaign, Erskine said.
“If there are smokers who want to smoke, that’s fine,” Erskine said. “I don’t encourage it; this is an anti-litter effort.”
Nationwide, though, an estimated two billion pounds of cigarette butts are flicked aside annually. Matt Skenazy, writing in the July-August 2011 issue of Miller-McCune magazine, said that represents 7.5 trillion individual butts — and that recycling butts is problematic because cigarette filters trap arsenic, cadmium, acetone, mercury and lead, among other toxic chemicals. San Francisco, Skenazy wrote, spends about $7.5 million a year picking up butts, and pays for that with a 2009 tax of 20 cents per pack.
Greta Sanderson, Lebanon Reporter publisher, joined Erskine in outlining the “cleanest city” initiative’s progress over the past year.
Nearly all of the 1,500 “butt buckets” — covered ashtrays that fit in a vehicle’s cup holders — that were ordered have been given away at various locations throughout the city, Sanderson said.
Studies have found that attitude contributes to 85 percent of littering. “People think, ‘it’s just one more piece of trash,’” Sanderson said. The “cleanest city” project hopes to turn around that attitude through facts, involving people, and positive reinforcement.
“This is not a campaign about picking up litter,” Sanderson said. “We want to prevent it from getting there in the first place.”
A thousand black and yellow window clings with the slogan have been distributed, with more on order. “The goal is to have a window cling on every car and every business in the city,” Erskine said. Ads have been placed in The Lebanon Reporter; on “Radio Mom,” a local radio station; and on Channel 19, the local cable TV access channel.
Local pizza restaurants are participating by distributing 2,500 box top labels that read, “Please help make Lebanon the cleanest city in Indiana. Don’t throw trash on the ground.”
“The reception and support we’ve had has been really wonderful,” Sanderson said. For example, one of Erskine’s neighbors, and a local Edward Jones financial agent, each donated $200 to the project. O’Reilly Auto Parts donated money to the butt bucket purchase. The Lebanon Stormwater Management Board has also helped fund much of the advertising campaign and the cost of the butt buckets, hoping to discourage littering by giving smokers an alternative to tossing butts out their car windows.
Hachette Book Group will purchase about 300 T-shirts for volunteers participating in a Saturday, May 5, clean-up event.
The campaign is hosting a free luncheon Wednesday, Feb. 15, at The Warehouse restaurant in Lebanon to garner more program support.
“We’re planning some fun things to thank people for participating,” Sanderson said.
“We can always use financial help, but this is not mainly financial,” Erskine said. “We want you all involved in that clean-up day.”
A successful project could bring Lebanon national recognition, Erskine said.
“You can help any way you want to,” Erskine said, “but please do this: Tell your family, tell your children, tell your employer; talk about Lebanon being the cleanest city in Indiana.”