Trash, like most topics, has its own history in Harlan County.
The roads of Harlan County are cleaner than they were just a few years ago, and they are immensely cleaner than they were back in the late 1970s.
The improvements began back in 1978 with some local ladies and a few interested men who wanted to get rid of the junk cars, old washing machines and trash that people threw along the edges of roads, over river banks and into the brush, according to Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop.
"Whoever started it, I'm glad for it," Grieshop said. "In the beginning, some folks were up in arms, literally, if you talked to them about cleaning up garbage. Now, they love us."
One of Grieshop's major initiatives since coming to office was to mandate that Harlan County residents sign up for garbage service in early 2003, when there was still a lot of illegal dumping, according to Dan Lankford, who is in charge of the county's solid waste enforcement.
"This is a problem that you have to deal with in every aspect," Lankford said. "The judge was looking for ways to clean the county and assist people at the same time."
When you see someone throwing trash on the roads or using private dumpsters for their personal use, Lankford is the man to call.
Once he has names and tag numbers, Lankford turns the information over the the sheriff's department.
The Harlan County Sheriff's Department, in turn, serve a citation in person to offenders.
"I've tore bags open and found names," Lankford said. "The entire issue is to get people on the service and keep them on the service. We've got a lot of people really responsive. Rather than go to court, they stay on the service.
"Still, we have an extremely large number who still have problems. There is a certain segment you got to deal with, and we have to figure out a way to do it.
"I'm only one person for the whole county and, buddy, it runs me ragged."
The progress shows not just in cleaner roads but in numbers. Enrollment for garbage service is up from 3,900 to 7,000 people. And since last year, 261 junked cars have been hauled away at no cost to the owners.
Looking over before and after photos of vehicles the county has hauled away, Lankford pointed to a large snakeskin on the driver's-side floor.
"Those abandoned cars are nothing but snake dens," he said.
The county picks up the vehicles, removes the tires and gas tanks which go to the demolition landfill and send the remains to the crusher.
The county also picks up other large items that can't go in the regular garbage.
"We got buggies that go out every day for homeowners that call who need mattresses, refrigerators and big things picked up that don't go to the regular landfill," said Chad Brock, magistrate for District 2.
Garbage service for county residents costs $42.35 for three months, with pick-up once a week. The fines for illegally dumping, according to Grieshop, run up to $250 in addition to two years garbage service paid in advance and community service hours spent picking up so many tons of garbage.
"People that litter create more work for everyone. There are no good reasons for littering or dumping stuff over the hill," Grieshop said.
"You can issue all the citations in the world, and it won't do any good," Lankford said. "It is a slow progression that takes education to change 90 years of bad stewardship."
Thanks to decades of work by volunteers, PRIDE program funding and two crews from the inmate work program that Lankford describes as "tremendous," officials say the roads of Harlan County are looking better than ever.