We all know the phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas.” It has become some sort of political battle cry. Right-wingers have adopted it as a defiant call to those who might want to, um, “reform” certain laws and customs.
It truth the phrase was born in the 1980s as an anti-littering slogan during the time Garry Mauro was serving as the state’s land commissioner. The General Land Office took up litter abatement as a critical issue facing the state.
Mauro and those who have followed him into the Land Office, though, have yet to take the next step in the effort to rid the state of litter that sullies our state’s vast landscape.
I want to bring up an issue I’ve raised before in other forums.
I bring you the Bottle Bill.
A bottle bill works in the states that have them. I grew up in Oregon, where the bottle bill has become a way of life. Rather than tossing bottles into the garbage, you save ’em and take ’em to the store where you get a return on the deposit you paid when you purchased the beverage the bottle contained.
The Oregon bottle bill, as I recall it, was enacted during the time Republican Tom McCall was serving as governor. The Legislature approved it in 1971 and has amended it a couple of time since then.
I remember a study done by media in Oregon that examined the amount of trash tossed along Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River; they also looked at the same length of highway on the Washington side of the Columbia. They found much more trash — namely glass bottles — in Washington than in Oregon.
OK, what does this mean for any other state, especially Texas, where my family and I have lived since 1984? It means the state hasn’t discovered what residents of other states, including my home state, have learned: bottle bills help abate litter.
I know that the grocery lobby opposes any effort to enact such a law in Texas, or any state that doesn’t have such a law on the books. They contend it is costly to process the bottles brought in by customers.
I don’t expect the next Texas Legislature to move on this matter. There is no interest among legislators to approve a law that requires such a fundamental change in consumer attitudes.
Sure, many communities have vibrant recycling programs. My wife and I live in Princeton and are happy to fill our recycling bin with items to reused/repurposed. They include glass bottles.
Still, we see a lot of litter strewn along our state’s thoroughfares. To their shame, too many Texans are still “messing with Texas.”