The Wal-Marts of Nebraska and other large businesses pay a fee to the Nebraska environmental department to offset potential litter they generate, but the money doesn't always go to that.The fees are intended to go into a fund for such groups as Keep North Platte and Lincoln County Beautiful – groups devoted to recycling and litter reduction.
That’s the way it’s been working in Nebraska, but not anymore.
Businesses continue to pay the fees, but due to state budget shortfalls, the money doesn’t go back to clean up and recycling groups, it goes to pay for other state expenses.
That adds up to a big hit for KNPLC Beautiful.
Executive Director Mona Anderson said her office will likely have to deal with a 25-50% cut.
Anderson is disappointed.
“It’s a little disheartening,” she said, “Not only for us, but the payees are under the impression the fees they pay to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality go to reduce and combat litter.”
Anderson understands the Legislature’s responsibility to balance the state budget, but says that using a designated fee for other state expenses is, well, less than transparent.
Consequently, she is looking at other ways to generate funds, such as local contributions and fees.
She said KNPLCB not only organizes litter collection as well as spruce-up efforts in the county, the group works in schools to educate children about the importance of reducing litter and recycling.
If the funds cannot be replaced, she said the amount of litter will increase and educational programs will be lost.
“I just don’t think they (legislators) understand the consequences, but the little people working on the street will see it,” she said.
Anderson said KNPLCB will have to come up with roughly $50,000 to offset the annual shortfall, presuming things stay the same with the Legislature. That might not seem like a lot of money, but it’s a considerable amount to KNPLCB.
She said KNPLCB operates on a small budget and it is not funded by city operations.
“We get some city support,” she said. “They donate office space, but they don’t fund our operations. We are not a city entity. We are a non-profit.”
Anderson said there is a constant, ongoing need to reduce litter.
“Any amount is too much,” she said. “We need clean rivers, waterways and storm drains. Litter from here goes into larger rivers and eventually out in the ocean. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”
Anderson pointed to mammoth floating collections of plastic and garbage in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, either of which would be more than any nation could clean up.
“That didn’t come from the ocean,” she said. “It comes from us – people like you and me.”