The Arizona Department of Transportation recently noted that its “Adopt a Highway” volunteers continued to make a big difference in terms of litter cleanup along state highways in 2023.

[Above photo by Arizona DOT]

The agency said roughly 850 volunteer groups – comprised of nearly 9,000 individuals – collected over 15,000 bags of roadside litter weighing some 103 tons from state highways mainly outside of Arizona’s metropolitan areas in 2023. The dollar value of that volunteer work equates to roughly $674,000; money the Arizona DOT said can be committed to other critical needs.

“We are so grateful to the many Arizonans who help keep our state grand,” said Mary Currie, Arizona DOT’s Adopt a Highway program manager, in a statement. “Their dedication beautifies state highways that provide a first impression for many visitors and enhances Arizona’s natural beauty.”

She noted that the state’s “Adopt a Highway” groups agree to pick up litter in an adopted stretch at least once per year, though preferably three or more times a year, coordinating with Arizona DOT to arrange for safety vests, litter bags and training for pickup events and then report the results.

State departments of transportation are using a variety of tactics to combat littering on state highways.

For example, the Tennessee Department of Transportation recently expanded the “Youth Group” patch program that is part of its Nobody Trashes Tennessee litter prevention campaign to include Girl Scouts Heart of the South and Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians. The patch program initially launched in October 2023 with the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee.

“Girl Scout Troops are highly committed to community service projects and environmental education, and we are thrilled to have participation from all three councils representing the entire state of Tennessee participating in our Nobody Trashes Tennessee patch program,” said Brittany Morris with the Tennessee DOT’s Beautification Office, in a statement.

[Editor’s note: The agency also recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its “Litter Grant Program.” That program – started in 1983 – provides funding to all 95 counties within the state to pay for a wide variety of litter-related efforts, such enforcement; cleanup and recycling events; and litter prevention education campaigns.]

“Within the first two months of launching the program in Middle Tennessee, we had approximately 1,000 Girl Scouts earn a Nobody Trashes Tennessee patch,” she said. “We are excited to have even more participation from Girl Scouts this year and have numerous ways for them to get involved.”

On another front, to make roadway debris removal operations faster and safer, the South Carolina Department of Transportation started installing “lane blades” on select highway incident response vehicles in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi Department of Transportation launched a new anti-litter webpage as part of a renewed statewide anti-littering campaign that kicked off in August 2023 – a “one-stop hub” that contains information about the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program, Mississippi litter statistics and resources, stormwater pollution information, anti-litter resources for school teachers, and much more.

And in April 2023, the Illinois Department of Transportation launched a new public outreach effort called “Think Before You Throw!” as part of its ongoing awareness campaign to reduce littering on state highways and roads.

That “Think Before You Throw!” initiative aims to reduce roadside litter along the state’s more than 150,000 miles of roads by raising awareness of the negative environment impact of trash, for both state residents and the nearly 100 million tourists who visit annually, the agency said.