RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Department of Transportation says it has set an annual record for the amount of trash collected along state roads and highways — and the year isn’t over yet.
More than 11 million pounds (5 million kilograms) of litter have been picked up as of Jan. 1, The News & Observer reported Wednesday. The previous record was 10.5 million pounds (4.76 million kilograms) in 2019.
“This is the kind of record we never wanted to break,” Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said in a statement. “I am very proud of the hard-working employees, contractors and volunteers who’ve helped us collect this trash, but litter shouldn’t be there in the first place. Keeping North Carolina beautiful starts with everyone doing their part.”
The COVID-19 pandemic led volunteer cleanups to be canceled in 2020. Financial issues also caused the department to reduce roadside maintenance efforts.
After receiving complaints about noticeable trails of debris, the department prioritized litter cleanup this year. It has spent $15.8 million to pick up trash so far, according to the newspaper.
The department has several collection strategies aside from its own employees and contractors. Its Sponsor-a-Highway program allows people, groups and businesses to pay for litter removal along sections of a highway while receiving recognition on road signs in return. Another initiative called Adopt-a-Highway has more than 120,000 volunteers statewide who clean a stretch of roadway at least four times a year.