“Over almost every ridge around the Truckee Meadows is an illegal dump site,” said Christi Cakiroglu, executive director of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. “Litter Index volunteers also identified a new illegal dump site in Spanish Springs.”
Although Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful stresses that the results of Wednesday’s survey showed the region was “found to be more littered” than last year, numbers show a far different picture.
Compared to when the group first started its surveying in 2001, the region is far better off.
The Litter Index is conducted by volunteer teams who rank areas of town on a cleanliness scale of 1 to 4. Keep America Beautiful guidelines signify that a “1” means “virtually no litter can be observed,” while a designation of “4” indicates that “major illegal dumpsites are present, requiring equipment or extra manpower for removal.”
Eleven years ago, Truckee Meadows received a 2.4 overall in cleanliness. Wednesday’s count revealed an overall score of 1.5 for that same area the group surveyed.
In Southeast Reno, Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful rated the area with a 3.8. The same area received a 1.1 rating Wednesday.
In Northwest Reno, the group gave the neighborhood a 2.4 rating — yet Wednesday night, the same area received a 1. Sun Valley cleaned up from a 3.8 in 2001 to a 2.4 this year; and North Valleys dropped from a 3 to a 2.1.
Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, expanded its outreach to several valleys, hills, canyons and freeways in 2010. These areas contributed to Wednesday’s overall combined score of 1.7.
To conduct the Litter Index, some 25 volunteers surveyed the Truckee Meadows region — stretching from Cold Springs to Galena, Sparks to Verdi. The region is divided into 25 different areas and broken into three categories including neighborhoods, freeways and open space areas.
When compared with last year’s results, 15 areas were found to be more littered, seven areas were cleaner, and three areas remained the same. Neighborhoods received an average rating of 1.5, open space access areas surveyed averaged a rating of 1.8, and the highway/freeway areas averaged a rating of 1.7. Overall community cleanliness decreased from 1.4 to an average of 1.7.
Cakrioglu finds that illegal dump sites throughout the community are a major problem.
“There are illegal dumpsites throughout the community,” she said. “We are working with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office to get some of those taken care of.”
The sheriff’s office has a task force that deals specifically with illegal dumping, she said.
“Litter and illegal dump sites bring down the value of homes and businesses” states Cakiroglu.
Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful encourages residents to take advantage of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office 329-DUMP Hotline or 334-COPS to call in illegal dumping in progress and illegal dumpsites.
Some businesses, such as construction and landscaping, are suspected to dump large quantities of trash in hidden areas, Cakiroglu said. If reported and law enforcement finds the company responsible for the illegal dumping, the business can lose its license.
Another growing problem in the region is random trash, like plastic bags, that blow in the heavy winds, Cakiroglu said.
“The results show that we really need to start focusing on prevention,” Cakiroglu said. “We live in a very windy community. We need to prevent the spread of trash.”
Recommendations include keeping trashcan lids firmly closed and not leaving loose trash in truck beds. Plastic bags and discarded cigarette butts are major issues as well, she said.
The Litter Index is a national initiative of Keep America Beautiful that provides a starting point for the litter prevention process. Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful is private, nonprofit and is dedicated to creating a cleaner, more beautiful region through education and active community involvement.
To find out more about how you can help keep the Truckee Meadows beautiful, call 851-5185 or visit www.ktmb.org.