RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.
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