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Public litter data: Don’t Mess with Texas

Don't Mess With TexasEven people living outside Texas have heard of Don’t Mess with Texas, the public relations campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT wants to persuade litter bugs to stop throwing trash out of their cars.

Buy what exactly do people tell TxDOT when they report a litterer?

In her newspaper column today, Peggy Fikac mentioned an interesting database we obtained recently of all littering complaints reported to TxDOT last year. If TxDOT can find a matching address to a reported license plate, the agency sends a friendly warning letter and litter bag to the alleged offender.

There’s some interesting patterns in the data. For example, Texas is parched from a record drought, yet cigarette butts were the most frequent type of litter reported by the public. Many people noted the risk of wildfire.

“Don’t Be a Butt!” one commenter wrote. “Keep your cigarettes in the car ashtray and help prevent fires! Thanks!”

Related: Web tools and apps to track weather emergencies in Texas

Some people also caught public workers littering: “I was surprised that the person littering was a DPS officer,” one complainant alleged. “I was disappointed to see (an) officer of the law break the law. The officer should be setting a example for the citizens.”

At least two people spotted litterbugs in fuel-efficient Priuses: “You think you’re green with your Prius but littering hurts the world!”

There was a Biblical commenter who simply wrote: “Revelation 11:18.”

And I was impressed by the reporting skills of this commenter:

“Man was a brunette, heavily built caucasian in tan cargo and tank top, tennis shoes in his early 40s. Threw the following out of parked SUV then drove off: 1 mcDonald’s chicken nugget, 1 piece of toy, 1 kids drink plastic cover, 1 straw, 2 bottles of water – one Kroger, the other brand I don’t recall; a plastic or rubber yellow and grey toy shark, a cardboard case bottom (possibly from a case of bottled water; cheetos empty bag, 2 dirty napkins, McDonalds large french fries holder. I did not confront driver because I was in my car and he was much much much bigger than me.”

You can check out the entire database here.