Budget cuts lead to trashier urban areas, roadways

SEATTLE - During the Legislative Special Session earlier this year lawmakers debated the budget, and axed the State's litter cleanup fund.

Four years ago, the Department of Ecology's cleanup fund was roughly $20 million, and now will be less than 9 million per year.

"We happen to received a significant cut in this area, and it's something people notice because the way litter - especially in the urban areas - accumulates so fast after pickup," Larry Altose with Washington's Department of Ecology says.

There used to be three crews of four people picking up trash along I5, between South King County and the Canadian border, but now that's been cut in half.

During July and August, the Ecology Youth Corps can be seen picking up trash at places that are not hazardous. Those jobs are gone for the year, and there's still plenty to be picked up.

Last year, state ecology crews cleaned 6,400 miles of roadway, picking up more than 1.1 million pounds of trash and recycling 143,000 pounds of it.

"It piles up very quickly in the urban areas, and that is what you are noticing," Altose says.

The budget cut also has a trickle down effect. The Department of Ecology doles out litter cleanup money to many county governments, the Department of Corrections, and the State Transportation Department.

All agencies will receive about half of what they had four years ago.