Several times a month, residents who live along Highway 82 just to the east of Reno find themselves contending with large amounts of garbage filling their yards and roadways. And they say they’ve had enough.
Resident AJ Preston said the trash comes from overloaded garbage trucks driving by, most likely on their way to the Blossom dump. Sanitation Solutions owner Josh Bray said complaints of trash falling from his trucks are quickly investigated and the area is cleaned up. Texas Department of Transportation officials said their crews also pitch in to clean up litter, though much of that effort is focused on the area’s more heavily traveled roads.
“Just about every week this happens,” Preston said. “They’re going way too fast and stuff just falls off. It varies, though. We could go a few weeks where not too much falls off, but then it can happen a bunch in a couple days.”
Part of what makes the problem so frustrating, Preston said, is the seeming lack of solutions to the problem, other than personal responsibility that can be taken by the truck drivers, who he wishes could face punishment.
“Outside of them not overloading their trucks, tarping it correctly and not going way too fast, I’m not sure what can be done,” Preston said.
“If I was driving my truck all through Paris with stuff blowing out the back, I’d probably get a ticket. Why can’t these people get a ticket?”
Texas Department of Transportation public information officer Tim McAlavy said the department works to keep state roads clean, though it isn’t able to perform legal enforcement.
“We can’t pull people over; we can’t write tickets,” McAlavy said. “We work as hard as we can to keep the roads as clean as possible.
“The best we can do is call the local authority and give them the license plate number when we see a car litter.”
McAlavy said TxDOT does work to keep county and state roads in the unincorporated parts of Lamar County free of litter, though the state roads that run through city limits are the responsibility of the cities.
McAlavy said the frequency with which TxDOT picks up along the roads depends on the level of traffic they see.
For instance, TxDOT cleans up along Highway 82, Highway 271, Loop 286 and some of the more oft-traveled county roads every few weeks. McAlavy said TxDOT spends roughly $20,000 annually picking up trash through Lamar County.
Due to the high number of trucks that travel that stretch of Highway 82 East, Reno City Secretary Tricia Johnson said it’s hard to know which company, companies or even individuals are responsible for the litter.
Bray said his company, Sanitation Solutions, takes reports of loose trash seriously.
“The bigger you get, the more calls you get,” he said. “If we receive a complaint that one of our trucks is losing trash, we go investigate and send people to clean it up.”
Bray also said residents can take steps to reduce the risk of trash falling off sanitation trucks.
“For one thing, they can double bag. They can secure loose items better,” Bray said. “If you have a stack of loose newspapers and another stack that’s tied with zip ties or something, which do you think is more likely to blow away? There are people who fill their cans with loose packing peanuts; what do you think is going to happen when you drive down the road with them?”
In addition to doing its contracted work, Bray said Sanitation Solutions participates in local trash-off events to further its mission of keeping a clean community.
Keeping Lamar County beautiful
Preston said he thought one of his neighbors previously went to the Lamar County Commissioners’ Court to complain about the issue of the loose trash.
However, County Administrative Assistant Nita Holtje searched the past several years of meeting minutes and was unable to find any reference to such complaint.
Outside of specific isolated parts of the county — including the stretch of Highway 82 in question — Lamar County doesn’t have much of a problem with littering, said Edwin Pickle with Keep Paris Beautiful.
He recognizes, though, the issue of loose trash or littering around Reno and Blossom as he’s heard numerous reports of the problem from several residents.
“We have litter, but I wouldn’t say it’s any more severe than any other county of our size,” Pickle said. “It’s really bad around Reno and Blossom, but not as prevalent in most other places.”
Pickle said Keep Paris Beautiful holds clean-up events, though they’ve decreased in frequency as participation waned.
“The last time we did a cleanup event, you could count on your hands the number of people who came out,” he said.
Pickle added that last year Keep Paris Beautiful performed a tire pick-up and collected roughly 2,000 tires from around the county.
“Tires have always been a problem,” he said.
Pickle said he would be open to scheduling more trash-off days if more people expressed interest in them, and invited community members to contact him if they’re interested in participating in such an event.
“At the end of the day, we all need to do our part,” Pickle said. “If you see trash, pick it up.”