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Washington’s litter hotline falls to budget cuts

Washington's litter hotline is no more. The toll free number to report people throwing trash out of their cars has fallen victim to state budget cuts.

Here is how it used to work: If you saw someone throw – say – a fast food bag out their window you could call 866-Litter-1 and report them. The driver would get a letter in the mail along with a litter bag.

Peter Christiansen is with Washington's Department of Ecology. He says surveys showed it worked.

"A high percentage of people say 'I'm not going to litter again. I got caught,'" Christiansen says. "And there's a certain shame in that."

The hotline received more than 21,000 calls in 2009. But for the past two budget cycles, state lawmakers have raided the litter fund. First advertising for the hotline was cut. Then calls started dropping off dramatically.

Now Christiansen says it makes better sense to spend the remaining money on clean up, not prevention. So call the hotline today and this is what you'll hear:

"Due to state budget cuts we are now unable to accept reports on witnessed littering events."

But the hotline highway signs will stay up – it's too costly to take them down. Plus there's some hope the program could be revived down the road.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.