Littering is bad. Did smokers miss the memo?

Couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to visit Germany. I’m not particularly fond of wiener schnitzel and I’m too southern to ever get used to warm beer, but I must tell you the Germans are seriously good engineers and the autobahn works. Driving without speed limits may not sound like a good idea, but you’ll just have to trust me… we’re missing out.

But it was the cleanliness of Deutschland that impressed me even more. My small sampling found their public restrooms might put mine at home to shame and littered streets and highways just don’t exist.

Maybe it was the jet lag, but after returning from Germany, and while stopped at one long traffic light after another, I found myself staring out the driver’s side window at the grass medians. Take a look. It’s disgusting. Without exaggeration there are cigarette butts on the ground at every intersection.

According to Keep America Beautiful, “cigarette smoking in America has decreased 28 percent yet cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the United States. Tobacco products comprise 38 percent of all U.S. roadway litter.”

The nauseating reality is most of those cigarette butts end up in our waterways.

In heavy rains like we’ve experienced the past few weeks, all those cigarettes wash into storm drains leading straight to streams and rivers. A great deal of that debris ends up in Lake Lanier, the source of our drinking water.

Connie Wiggins, at Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, sees “educating our community to be mindful of our water resources” as one of many opportunities. This nonprofit works with the community to promote environmental stewardship. They coordinate Great American Clean Up Gwinnett and tackle problems like graffiti prevention, recycling/waste reduction and litter prevention.

According to Wiggins, “People make a decision about the vibrancy of a community in 15 seconds.” If I drive up to a local business and there is trash littering the sidewalk, broken windows and overgrown shrubbery, I may make a split-second decision this place isn’t safe for me. These gut reactions drive property values and business vitality.

See someone littering in Gwinnett? Email the date, time, license plate number, make and model of the car and a general location of the incident to and Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful will contact local law enforcement. Police will notify the owner of the vehicle to make them aware of littering laws in our community.

Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful has been tossing around an idea for a new litter prevention campaign I like the sound of… “Keep Your Butts off the Road.”

Let them know if you support the notion and find out more at

Karen Huppertz has lived in Gwinnett County for 14 years. Reach her at

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