May 22, 2022
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The Idaho Transportation Department is deploying a new machine (seen above) this spring to pick up trash along Interstate 90 from Washington to Coeur d’Alene.

[Above photo by the ITD]

The new contraption requires two operators – one to drive the machine, which uses metal teeth to comb through the grass, and another to haul the trash away in a dump truck.

Photo by ITD

“To do [clear trash] one mile by hand takes five operators working together for eight hours,” explained Jerry Wilson, an operations engineer with the agency, in a statement. “With this machine, we can cut that down to two people working five hours and still cover the same distance.”

The machine works particularly well in the “flat areas” of highway medians, Wilson noted, which Adopt-A-Highway volunteers are typically encouraged to avoid for their own safety.

“We will continue to rely on volunteers through the Adopt-A-Highway program to help get this mess cleaned up,” Wilson said. “They are just as valuable to us as this new machine, and we are inspired by the effort they make every year to keep Idaho beautiful.”

In 2021, the Idaho Transportation Department said volunteers in North Idaho picked up 4,171 bags of litter or about 72.8 tons of trash – enough to fill 18 garbage trucks.

Photo by the Arizona DOT

The Arizona Department of Transportation also reported a major uptick in trash collection in 2021 versus 2020.

The agency said more than 7,400 volunteers collected 14,400 bags or 197,000 pounds of trash from along state highways in 2021 – roughly 89,000 pounds of additional trash collected versus 2020, it noted in a blog post.

Meanwhile, state departments of transportation across the country are gearing up for spring litter removal efforts.

Photo by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful

For example, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful are joining forces to sponsor the 33rd annual Oklahoma TRASH-OFF highway litter collection event – part of the national three-month annual Great American Cleanup.

Keep Oklahoma Beautiful noted in a statement that it collaborated with 138 Great American Cleanup community events in 2021, up from 49 previously, collecting nearly 3 million pounds of litter from nearly 6,000 miles of roads, more than a 1,700 percent increase from 2020.

Typically, such yearlong volunteer trash cleanup efforts save the state more than $5 million annually in highway cleanup costs, the group noted.

editor@aashto.org

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