Washington’s litter hotline falls to budget cuts

Jul 18, 2011

Washington's litter hotline is no more. The toll free number to report people throwing trash out of their cars has fallen victim to state budget cuts.

Here is how it used to work: If you saw someone throw – say – a fast food bag out their window you could call 866-Litter-1 and report them. The driver would get a letter in the mail along with a litter bag.

Peter Christiansen is with Washington's Department of Ecology. He says surveys showed it worked.

"A high percentage of people say 'I'm not going to litter again. I got caught,'" Christiansen says. "And there's a certain shame in that."

The hotline received more than 21,000 calls in 2009. But for the past two budget cycles, state lawmakers have raided the litter fund. First advertising for the hotline was cut. Then calls started dropping off dramatically.

Now Christiansen says it makes better sense to spend the remaining money on clean up, not prevention. So call the hotline today and this is what you'll hear:

"Due to state budget cuts we are now unable to accept reports on witnessed littering events."

But the hotline highway signs will stay up – it's too costly to take them down. Plus there's some hope the program could be revived down the road.

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