October 16, 2021
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The North Carolina Department of Transportation is gearing up for its annual Spring Litter Sweep​ to remove trash from along the state’s roadways, which will run from April 10-24 this year.

[Above photo by NCDOT.]

To date, the agency said its crews, contractors, and volunteers have already collected some 1.8 million pounds of litter from roadsides statewide since January 1.

Eric Boyette

“We are only just beginning this year’s efforts to clean up and prevent litter on our roadsides,” noted Eric Boyette, NCDOT’s secretary, in a statement. “But we need everyone’s help. We all are responsible for keeping North Carolina clean and beautiful.”

The department added that it uses both state-owned forces and contract services to collect and remove trash from North Carolina’s roadways. NCDOT’s Sponsor-A-Highway Program allows businesses, organizations, and individuals to sponsor litter removal along roadsides, while the agency also joins forces with more than 120,000 volunteers at least four times per year through the Adopt-A-Highway Program for roadside cleanup efforts.

State departments of transportation from across the country are regularly engaged in a variety of trash-removal efforts and litter education campaigns.

Photo by SCDOT

For example, the South Carolina Department of Transportation noted that 1,700 of its employees picked up 13,130 bags of roadside trash weighing 209,725 pounds on November 17, 2020, in support of Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette’s “Grab A Bag SC 2020” statewide cleanup program.

In October 2020, the Georgia Department of Transportation launched a new anti-litter campaign – called “Keep It Clean Georgia” – focused on preventing and eliminating litter along 50,000 miles of interstates and statewide routes.

The Virginia Department of Transportation launched a public outreach campaign entitled Virginia is for Lovers, Not Litter in September 2020; noting that it spends nearly $3.5 million annually to remove litter from Virginia’s roadways, with more than half of that litter coming from motorists with another 25 percent from pedestrians.

Photo by the Department of Defense

The cost of litter removal from state roadways does not come cheap. In February 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation released the results of a Pennsylvania Litter Research Study – conducted from 2018 through 2019 in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Keep America Beautiful, and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

That study found that trash cleanup efforts removed more than 502 million pieces of litter from Pennsylvania’s roads, with the most common trash being cigarette butts (37 percent) and plastics (30 percent), while plastic film and beverage containers are the most prevalent items – with an estimated 29.3 million beverage containers alone littering the state’s roadways.

Pennsylvania’s cities collectively spend more than $68 million annually on cleanup, education, enforcement, and prevention efforts related to litter and illegal dumping, the study found, with PennDOT spending upwards of $13 million per year on staff and resources to pick up litter along state-owned roadways.

editor@aashto.org

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