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Trash Is Rampant on Roadways Despite State Efforts

Posted February 12, 2007
Updated February 13, 2007

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— Drive the Beltline, U.S. Highway 64 or Interstate 540, and you are bound to see it—trash on the side of the road. Every year, the state spends $16 million cleaning it up. On average, crews collect 11 million pounds. Volunteers and crews of state inmates tangle with the trash, but it’s not a war they seem to be winning.

There are all kinds of trash. It seems to be everywhere. And no one's happy about it.

“I just don't like litter,” said Edna Utley, a driver with whom WRAL spoke Monday. “There's not enough done. They should be using more of the inmates.”

Inmate work crews pick up trash Monday through Friday year-round. They pull eight-hour shifts each weekday as long as the temperature is below 95 degrees and above 24.

The correctional officers who keep shotguns at the ready as they supervise the trash crews say they've noticed a pattern.

“That section that was just cleaned up is the section of I-40 from Highway 42 to Highway 70. The trash we've collected is bagged and still on the roadside. People are already throwing trash out in that area again,” one officer told WRAL.

The re-trashing of just-cleared roadsides creates an endless cycle for the state Department of Transportation.

“It's very frustrating,” says Jason Holmes, an engineer with the DOT. “As much effort as we put into picking up trash and trying to keep the roads clean, it seems that we can pick up all of I-40 and within a week it looks like we haven't been out there in months.”

The answer depends on the drivers, not the cleaners.

“We need less people throwing stuff out of their cars, but I don't know how you convince them to do that,” driver Steve Goodman said.
47 Comments

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  • raybetty99 Feb 16, 2007

    I think a deposit on beverage containers would be great. Imagine all those bottles and cans as being nickels and dimes on the road. I don’t think they would stay there long and if folks continued to pitch them out, it would cost them. It would also be an incentive to recycle, which would help save our landfills. A bottle deposit is not the solution to the litter problem but I believe it would make a difference.

    There is no one solution to the litter problem. We have to look at all the sources and tackle each source separately.

  • duvroux Feb 16, 2007

    My parents live in Nash Caounty and littering there is also a big problem. They turn people in all the time and I did as well when I lived there as well, get their license plate number and I call the Nash County Sherrif's Dept and they do nothing. We have even had someone mail who dumped his trash on the side of the road instead of going to the dump and the sherrifs dept. told the man if he did not remove the trash he would be fined. He removed only about 1/3 of the trash and was never fined. Law enforcment needs to take action as well b/c I stopped reporting incidents after getting no where with the Nash County Sherrifs Dept. and we have even been members of the Adopt a Highway program for 15 years and still cannot get help in that county.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 16, 2007

    Littering and Rubbernecking should be punishable by electric shock.

  • nursevb8 Feb 16, 2007

    I smiled big when in Krogers last nite, I saw a little blonde haired girl take the wrapper off her sucker and throw it on the floor. I then saw her grandfather peck her on the shoulder and point to the wrapper and tell her to pick it up. If more parents were like this, there would be alot less littlering pigs. I agree, the fine for littering should be to pick up trash.

  • momotwins Feb 15, 2007

    Come Clean up Burlington Mills Road in Wake Forest! Yuck! There was such a thing as a "bottle bill" when I was growing up in another state out west. We took bottles back to the store for a refund of a dime or nickel. It kept Oregon highways clean! North Carolina Legislators could use the tax payers dollars for something useful like incentives to keep trash off the road. I know it is hard to enforce but when did the world get so damned complacent about common decency I am not a confessed granola or "green" person. I just know that we need to teach our children good stewardship and learn it ourselves. God gave us only one place to live. I'd like to live in it for awhile and with pretty stuff to look at.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 15, 2007

    The penalty for littering on NC highways should be spending numerous weekends performing community service in the orange jumpsuits picking up the litter.

  • raybetty99 Feb 14, 2007

    I would like to know your feelings about picking up litter. Are you willing to give a hand in cleaning up our roads?

    As for me, I hate litter. Rather than live in a littered neighborhood, I choose to keep my neighborhood litter free. I have been picking up the litter for 20 years. It has become routine. I don't give it much thought.

    My husband and I keep almost 3 miles of roadside clean. This is in 3 different sections all located within a few miles of a county convenient site for household trash. We pick up a lot of trash that folks lose going to the dump. We average 3 bags of trash per week. That's a lot of litter, litter that we would have to look day after day if we chose to ignore it.

    There's so much litter on our roadsides, it's impossible for inmates to keep the roads clean. It's hard to get volunteers to pick up litter. Most feel that picking up litter is degrading

  • Tarheel Bred Feb 14, 2007

    It is mind boggling how lazy people can be. The majority of people littering do not even keep their own personal space clean. Everyone thinks that the little piece of trash that they throw out of the window won't matter. However, the hundred other people that threw out trash thought the same thing.

  • notpc567 Feb 13, 2007

    I am a native of North Carolina and I am ashamed at the trash that litters out roadways. I remember as a child just the thought of littering was unheard off. I have noticed in the last 16 years since the nothern migation really picked up, more litter seems to appear. I don't care that NC has less trash on our roadways that NJ does. I take pride in the fact that folks in NC take pride in appearance, the only problem is that our new neighboros seem to be less concerned. I encourage my kids to clean up whenever we are out, pick it up and put it where it belongs. If more people would take the time to clean up and be clean, maybe there would be fewer eyesores in the area. Stop complaining and do something about it.

  • nursevb8 Feb 13, 2007

    540 is disgusting, especially at the exit from Buffaloe Rd onto 540 E. The construction people can take part of the blame, but I see orange barrels, pylons, and even buckets. You hear often of ladders in the roads. Maybe if there were a few more littering fines placed on some. I think some comes from the trash trucks. People just don't care but they'll sure talk about WV--it's alot cleaner than some of the places I've seen in NC.

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