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Massachusetts Litter Scorecard 2011

Posted: August 10, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

The American State Litter Scorecard includes state by state performance measures on the management of public and private litter and dumping.  Presented in conference earlier this year, the updated scorecard allows us to compare the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ performance with the other 50 states. What are the state's strengths and weaknesses? What can be done to improve the state's ranking?

Stephen Spacek, author of the Litter Scorecard, has taken the time to review this article and make his own suggestions on steps the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can take to improve.  His comments follow at the end of the article.

Littering is the human throwing of trash in small or moderate portions onto the surface of public or private property while dumping is littering on a larger, more voluminous scale (i.e. throwing a 33-gallon bag of garbage onto a roadway or into a stream).

According to Stephen L Spacek who prepared the most recent update of the American Litter Scorecard, it is "a report that is of interest to the increasingly environmentally concerned population throughout the United States."  

The 2011 American State Litter Scorecard was presented at the 2011 American Society for Public Administration Conference held March 13, 2011 in Baltimore Maryland.  It may be downloaded (pdf) here.

The Litter Scorecard is generated as follows:  Every state is graded from -5.0 to +5.0 on eleven objective and subjective factors.  Then the final state scores are calculated as the sum of the individual scores.  Because the factors cover a broad range of activities affecting litter/dumping control, the final score serves as a useful comparative measure.  The top 10 states are labeled the "Best"; the second 10 are "Above Average", then average, below average and worst.

Ranking Factors - Objective and Subjective

OB1: States with Litter Taxation (2011)
OB2: States with Container Deposit Rules/Legislation (2011)
OB3:
States with Comprehensive Recycling Rules/Legislation (2011)
OB4: States with Litter Prevention Slogans (2011)
OB5:
Per Person Overall State Environmental Expenditure (2006)
OB6:
Per Person Daily Waste Disposal by State (2007)
OB7:
States with Highest Chance for Debris-related Fatal Vehicle Collision (2008)
OB8:
Integrity of State Thoroughfare Maintenance Disbursement Costs (2008)
OB9:
State Public Corruption Convictions per Population Proportion (2008)


SU1:
Environmental Responsibility Reputation of State Governors (2009)
SU2:
State Licensed Drivers Knowledge of Littering and other Road Laws (2009)


In his report Stephen Spacek states that "littering and dumping are rampant ecological problems creating danger to public health, safety and welfare. . .  Roadside litter features prominently in its 'ugliness' that damages scenic environments, breeds disease-causing insects and rodents, and serious injuries and deaths to animals and humans.

In 2008, more than 800 Americans died nationwide as a result of vehicular collisions involving debris and/or movable, non-fixed objects along thoroughfares."

Following are the 2011 scorecards of three states:  Washington, California and Massachusetts. The State of WA ranked the highest with a score of 26.0 while KY ranked the lowest with a score of 0.0. 


 

OB1

OB2

OB3

OB4

OB5

OB6

OB7

OB8

OB9

SU1

SU2

Final

WA

+5.0

0.0

+5.0

+5.0

+2.0

+3.0

-1.5

+1.0

-1.0

+4.5

+3.0

+26.0

CA

0.0

+5.0

+5.0

+5.0

+4.0

+2.0

-2.0

+0.5

-1.0

+4.5

0.0

+23.0

MA

0.0

+5.0

0.0

+5.0

+1.0

+4.5

-1.0

0.0

-3.0

+3.0

+0.5

+15.0



The Commonwealth of Massachusetts ranked #14 with a score of 15.0 and is considered an "above average" state. 

Positive Factors:

+5.0 MA is one of only 10 states with container deposit rules (OB2)
+5.0 MA uses litter prevention slogans (OB4)
+4.5 The per person daily waste disposal is relatively low (OB6)
+3.0
The state governor has a good Environmental Responsibility Reputation

Negative or Non-contributing Factors:

+0.0
No litter taxation (OB1)
+0.0
No comprehensive Recycling Rules/Legislation (OB3)
-3.0
State public corruption convictions (OB9)
+0.5
State Licensed Drivers Knowledge of Littering and other Road Laws

At first glance, Massachusetts, compared to all other 50 states, would seem to rank pretty well.  However, two issues are worth noting.

Massachusetts Ranks Poorest in the North East

This issue is almost "embarrassing."  If we aggregate the "North East Region" states - Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut - what we find is that Massachusetts is the ONLY state that is NOT in the top 10 (Best).  Also see map below.

1
Washington
26
2
California
23
3
Iowas
20
3
Maine
20.5
5
Connecticut
19.5
6
Rhode Island
19
7
Vermont
18.5
8
Oregon
18
9
New Hampshire
17
10
New York
16.5
12
Maryland
15.5
12
Nebraska
15.5
14
Massachusetts
15
14
New Jersey
15
14
Utah
15

2011 American State Litter Scorecard Map
The 2011 Scorecard report summarizes characteristics of the "Best" states:
  • Two states had Litter Taxation (OB1)
  • All but two had above average Per Person Overall State Environmental Expenditures (OB5)
  • A majority of BEST states had
    • Comprehensive Recycling Rules/Legislation (OB3)
    • Litter Prevention Slogans (OB4)
    • Below average Per Person Daily Waste Disposals (OB6)
    • Below average Debris-related Fatal Vehicle Collision Chances (OB7)
How does Massachusetts compare?
  1. OB1:  No Litter Taxation
  2. OB3:  No comprehensive recycling rules/legislation
  3. OB5:  Per Person Overall State Environmental Expenditures are too low
Additional factors?
  1. OB9:  State public corruption convictions too high
  2. SU2:  Drivers not knowing littering laws
Recommendation

Massachusetts ranks high enough among the "best" states and close enough to New York (16.5) to be able to move the state's ranking higher over the next several years into the Best zone. 

Our elected officials should set this as a high priority.

You can help:  187th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Here you can find your local representatives - email addresses and phone numbers. 
Refer to this article.  Tell them your concerns in your own words.  YOU can make all the difference. 

Good luck!


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Nancy-- 
Good, intriguing Job!--
 
I think three things can be done within next 1-2 years that can help MA get into a desired "Best" zone:
  1. Publish summary anti-litter laws in Drivers handbook issued to new/current Licensed Drivers and any mailed renewals, and put this summary information on MASSDOT's and MA State Police's (main page portal) websites.
  2. General Court of Commonwealth passes Litter Taxation.
  3. General Court of Commonwealth passes statewide Comprehensive Recycling Rules.
A fourth and fifth, 4) Increasing State Env. Expenditures, as well as 5) State/local public officials controlling improper personal conduct relationships with established laws, may prove difficult.

Hopefully, Boston's State House will get things done enviromentally that New Jersey's Trenton, Pennsylvania's Harrisburg stubbornly can't--those are two anti-environmental "pariah" states negatively affecting a cleaner, multistate-NE region.
 
S. Spacek

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