KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Washington litter study blames everyone but the homeless

Sep 15, 2023, 2:58 PM | Updated: Sep 16, 2023, 11:25 am

litter study...

Garbage pile on a city street in Seattle. (MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

The state of Washington is trying to shame us for littering, but they’re intentionally ignoring the culprits responsible for much of it: homeless people. It’s no more stigmatizing or demonizing to acknowledge their role than it is to blame everyone else.

In the first litter “study” in almost 20 years, the Washington State Department of Ecology (WA-DOE) claimed 37.8 million pounds of waste ends up outside of trash or recycling bins where they belong. And with the data, the WA-DOE is pushing us to keep “trash bags” in our cars so that we’re not tossing anything out of the window in order to keep the car clean. But we do not appear to be the ones chiefly responsible. 

The study reviewed litter at random locations across the state that fit within five main groups: roadways, on-ramps/off-ramps, rest areas, state and county parks, and recreation areas. In other words, they primarily focused on where the homeless congregate, live, and litter. So why are we getting the blame? 

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Washington’s litter study ignores the impact of the homeless

Drive up and down most freeways, including the on- and off-ramps, and you’re likely to see homeless encampments. Some are obvious, others hidden behind brush. And they’re filthy. 

Despite promises by Governor Jay Inslee to clean them up, his Department of Transportation is unwilling. They follow the failed “housing first” model, which demands there be an apartment, not merely shelter space, to place the homeless that are being swept. Due to their inactions, the encampments have grown, along with the trash that comes with it. 

Those ramps are covered in waste. From food wrappers and cigarette butts to used needles and broken/stolen bicycle parts. There was one trash heap almost as tall as me at an encampment I visited in the International District. 

Yet the WA-DOE claims on and off ramps without encampments “were the type of roadway with the most litter,” according to a spokesperson.

While it’s certainly true that many of us litter, to pretend the homeless aren’t leading the way is another attempt to downplay the homelessness crisis that’s a result of Democrat’s policy choices. 

Homeless? What homeless?

Reading the WA-DOE study, you wouldn’t know the state is suffering from a homelessness crisis at all. Just shut up and put a “litter bag” in your car and we’ll have a pristine Washington again.

The study itself places blame on drivers who aren’t properly securing whatever it is they are transporting (“construction and demolition debris, cardboard, plastic film, wood products, yard debris, and large bulky items such as mattresses”). They claim that 39% of roadside litter is coming from these unsecured loads. Cardboard on the sides of roads and on on- and off-ramps is due to unsecured loads and not the homeless? 

A spokesperson for the WA-DOE told The Jason Rantz Show that, “we did not try to evaluate areas where people are living unsheltered — dealing with those issues requires a very different approach and a different set of tools.”

But he said based on their study, “we know that an overwhelming majority of the litter in our state is coming from travelers, who either toss it out the window, fail to clean out their truck bed, or don’t properly secure their cargo.”

This is all as ridiculous as it is to say it’s perfectly safe to ride transit when 100% of the vehicles that were studied had meth smoke present.

A lie by omission

When governmental agencies put out studies around litter that pretend homeless play little to no role, they’re doing it with intent. 

Progressive lawmakers and activists think criticizing them for anything is dehumanizing, stigmatizing or degrading. I suspect that’s the intent behind their blame-game on the rest of us. You’re not even supposed to judge their addiction or punish their lawbreaking: show some compassion! There’s also the added benefit of not calling out their boss, the Governor, for failing to address the crisis that’s taken over the state.

The study is also clearly intended to convince the public to change their habits. Even in response to questions about homelessness and the study, the WA-DOE spokesperson shoehorned in pitches to keep a litter bag in the car.

They know there’s no convincing the homeless not to litter, so why try? Fair enough. But why not acknowledge their role and say we can do our own part to cut down on litter? It’s obviously a noble goal. But pretending homelessness isn’t making this state dirtier is not merely ridiculous, it makes the department seem unserious.

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Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book “What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our Cities.” Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Washington litter study blames everyone but the homeless