County's litter removal effort continues

Catawba County is wants residents to stop littering and pick up a piece of trash.

As part of a two-week statewide initiative, the county is asking volunteer groups to help remove trash from roadways through the end of the month. The statewide LITTER SWEEP started Sept. 17 and will end Oct. 1.

“It’s an effort to clean up litter on the roadsides in the community,” said Kelly Groves, North Carolina Cooperative Extensive horticultural agent.

“Any group or organization can decide to participate and they just have to contact the NCDOT and pick up vests and trash bags to go pick up trash along that section of road.”

The bi-annual LITTER SWEEP is driven by the NCDOT and a proclamation from N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

In addition to volunteer support, NCDOT maintenance crews also devote one week of their time to the sweep and pick up collected trash from roadsides, said Michael Watson, Catawba County NCDOT Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) representative.

The amount of trash collected from state and county roads through the program is slightly rising. The state collected a total of about 3.5 million pounds of litter through its AAH groups in 2010, which is slightly higher than the 3.2 million pounds they collected in 2009, according to the NCDOT records.

Of the 3.5 million pounds of litter collected in 2010, the AAH groups recycled 418,640 pounds.

NCDOT officials say litter amounts can vary, though. In its litter sweep this April, AAH groups collected 1.6 million pounds of litter, said Amy Mitchell, the state Adopt-A-Highway coordinator.

“The amount we pick up changes, but just about every year, we pick up a little bit more than the year before,” Mitchell said.

In 2010, the AAH program cost $270,310 versus $396,173 reported in 2009. The 2010 program cost includes statewide program administration as well as the costs to highway divisions for their AAH program administration, sign installation, bag removal and safety vests, among other things. There were 5,404 man hours charged to this program in 2010 versus 6,322 in 2009, according to NCDOT records.

The AAH Program had about 6,000 groups that adopted about 12,000 roadside miles in 2010.

According to the NCDOT, the volunteer cleanup efforts of the AAH program saved the state's taxpayers more than $6.6 million in cleanup costs in 2010, and during the last three years, the AAH program provided a cumulative savings of $18.9 million in roadside litter removal costs.

Correctional clean-up

The NCDOT also spends millions of dollars each year for state inmates to clean up trash on the highways. In 2010, NCDOT transferred $9.04 million to pay for minimum and medium-security highway work crews.

“They pick up litter on the primary routes like (U.S. 321) and Interstate 40,” Watson said. “The county maintenance may call the state corrections department and request a certain area.”

Inmates collected more than 2 million pounds of trash in 2010.