Litter proposal to create task force advances to House

Trash Litter – stockCreative Commons

BATON ROUGE — A state senator told a House committee Thursday that his litter resolution is an effort to get the best minds in the state together to try to solve the state’s litter problems, which never seem to end.

Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, is the lead author of Senate Concurrent Resolution 42, which would create the Louisiana Trash and Litter Task Force. It moves to the House floor for debate.

The resolution says that “litter and illegal dumping are pervasive problems in our state, impacting state highways, parks, waterways, open spaces, and private and public properties.”

Other anti-litter efforts have failed, Appel told the House Governmental Affairs Committee, and he wants this task force to take the issue seriously.

“We have to find a way to end this problem, not by just having a cleanup day, but get into the nuts and bolts of what other states are doing,” he said.

Appel said he wasn’t advocating the same thing, but that Massachusetts levies a $5,500 fine for first-offense littering because the state takes it seriously.

Research on the litter that is floating down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico also needs attention because much of it is being eaten by the state’s shrimp and fish, he said.

Rep. Lance Harris, RAlexandria, told Appel about scientists creating — by accident — a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drink bottles. The plastic-eating bugs were discovered at a Japanese dump.

A report in The Guardian’s April 16 U.S. edition said that “the mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic — far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans.”

A University of Portsmouth, UK, professor who led the research said, “What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we an literally recycle it back to plastic.”

The resolution says that “dumping of litter and trash not only degrades Louisiana’s unparalleled natural beauty, but also negatively affects the state’s environmental protection and economic development efforts.”

The task force would comprise 18 members, including legislators on a number of committees, heads of state departments, the executive director of Keep America Beautiful, the president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, and the president of the Louisiana Oil Marketers and Convenience Store Association. The members could designate others to represent them.

A professor at LSU would be involved in the task force effort, Appel said. A report would be presented to the Legislature 60 days prior to the 2019 regular session. It would include task force findings and recommendations.