The Michigan Department of Transportation is preparing to give roadsides along state highways their first full cleanings of 2023 in what the agency said has become an annual “rite of spring” statewide.

[Above photo by the Michigan DOT]

The agency said state workers and members of its Adopt-A-Highway program will pick up litter from along roadsides in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula April 22-30. The first such pickup for roadsides in the Upper Peninsula occurs May 6-14, when spring weather has had “more time to set in” for the northern part of the state.

“Our thousands of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers are dedicated to keeping roadsides in their communities clean,” noted Michigan DOT Acting Director Brad Wieferich in a statement.

“They make a huge difference every year,” he added. “Let’s help them stay safe while they’re out there – keep an eye out for the volunteers and drive cautiously during the pickup periods.”

The agency said its Adopt-A-Highway program, which began in 1990, now includes nearly 2,900 groups that have adopted more than 6,000 miles of state highway. Annually, those volunteers pick up litter three times per year and typically collect 60,000 to 70,000 bags of trash; a service worth an estimated $5 million value yearly for the state.

Several state departments of transportation across the country have already activated similar spring litter cleanup events and public awareness campaigns regarding roadway trash.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation recently initiated a months-long effort aimed at removing debris and sprucing up roadways statewide.

“We will dedicate increased resources to collecting litter, removing graffiti, pruning trees, and mowing grass on the 2,300 miles of state highways,” noted New Jersey DOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti in a statement. “NJDOT’s Highway Operations Technicians will be working hard to tackle litter hot spots and keep the shoulders, medians, and ramps on our roadways clean and litter free.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation recently 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.

The “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.

In March, the Maryland Department of Transportation launched “Operation Clean Sweep Maryland,” a new initiative that will nearly double the frequency of litter pickup and mowing efforts along state roads.

This new effort – which began in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regions – is under the purview of the Maryland State Highway Administration, one of Maryland DOT’s modal divisions.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Transportation sponsors an annual litter prevention campaign – called “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” – with Keep Tennessee Beautiful affiliates and Adopt-A-Highway groups.

In November 2022, more than 1,300 volunteers statewide removed more than 48,000 pounds of litter in their communities as part of its month-long “No Trash November” roadway cleanup effort.

Concurrently, in August 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation joined several fellow state agencies to help launch a new anti-litter campaign entitled “PA Fights Dirty: Every Litter Bit Matters.” The creation of this campaign is one of the many recommendations made by Pennsylvania’s first-ever Litter Action Plan, released in December 2021. That plan also won a Pennsylvania Governor’s Awards for Excellence in May 2022.