The Maryland Department of Transportation recently launched “Operation Clean Sweep Maryland,” a new initiative that will nearly double the frequency of litter pickup and mowing efforts along state roads.
[Above photo by Maryland DOT]
This new effort – which launched 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.
The agency said it increased its annual maintenance budget more than 30 percent compared to 2022 to nearly $30 million to accommodate additional litter removal and mowing efforts as part of Operation Clean Sweep Maryland.
The agency added that it spent approximately $39 million over the last five years collecting and disposing more than 26,000 truckloads of litter along state roads. Annually, MDOT SHA collects approximately 5,300 truckloads of trash at a cost of more than $7 million.
“Operation Clean Sweep Maryland” also includes funding to hire additional state employees to increase litter pickup frequency as well as to purchase additional mowing equipment and develop contract resources to maintain both the increased mowing and litter removal cycles.
“Maryland’s highways connect us to friends, family, schools, jobs and recreation, and serve as the welcome mat for visitors to our state,” explained Paul J. Wiedefeld, secretary for the Maryland DOT, in a statement.
“We can’t allow litter to destroy the beauty of our communities and threaten our safety and the environment,” he added. “We need the help of everyone to tackle this problem, and our state highway crews are prepared to lead the way.”
In addition to hindering mowing and landscape efforts, as well as creating negative environmental impacts, roadway trash severely impacts drainage infrastructure, Maryland DOT said. Backed up drains cause rain and snow melt to “pond” on the roads, creating a major safety hazard for motorists, the agency said.
Concurrently, due to a mild winter, MDOT SHA said it anticipates roadside mowing will be required earlier than usual, thus necessitating earlier and more frequent seasonal trash removal efforts.
State departments of transportation across the country are involved in a wide range of anti-littering efforts.
For example, 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Concurrently, in July 2022, Ohio launched a new litter control program – one administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation – that seeks to broaden engagement by the business community in its trash removal efforts.
That Ohio program allows businesses and groups to fund litter removal services along one-mile, one-direction segments of state highways. In exchange for their sponsorship, Ohio DOT displays the name of the business or group on a sign within their sponsored segment.