It’s Monday morning and you walk toward your vehicle for a routine commute to work. You open the car door and are forced to confront the remnants of last week’s trash: a used paper coffee cup sits empty in the cup holder, torn plastic snack wrappers lay scattered across the passenger seat, and your breakfast-on-the-go banana has become a rotting peel tucked away in the console.
But what can you do? It’s easy to say, “I’ll toss this trash once I get home,” but is that usually the case? More often than not, does the trash pile up in your car until you have nowhere else to put it?
Once you hit the road, you start to think about how much time it takes to gather up all this trash. “Well, I can at least get rid of the banana peel quickly. It’s biodegradable,” you justify to yourself. One quick toss out the car window and the old banana peel flies onto the freeway.
As you cruise along Loop 101, you drive by and spot the beautiful Four Peaks in the distance. But you also notice other similar trash to the item you just tossed: a soda can, fast food wrappers and an orange peel are quickly brushed to the side of the highway as you pass by. What a view to be cluttered by litter. Don’t worry, that trash will degrade soon, right? Wrong.
Food, cigarettes, snack wrappers and plastic cups are just a few harmful pieces of litter that quickly pile up across Maricopa County highways. In 2022, more than 122,000 bags of litter were picked up from Valley freeways, which is an estimated 1.7 million pounds of trash each year. Not only is litter harmful to the environment and to our health, but it’s also costly.
On average, Maricopa County taxpayers pay $5 million each year to clean up roadways. Yikes!
Don’t be a part of the problem—be a part of the solution. It’s easy to get rid of car trash and help prevent freeway litter. Here are a few suggestions on convenient places to clean out your car:
- Clean out your car each time you get gas. A stop that most drivers must make eventually, pulling into a gas station to refuel is also great opportunity to clean out your car. With accessible trash cans in place and time to kill while your tank fills up, you can use the time wisely by gathering up your trash and disposing of it properly.
- Stash a travel trash bag in your car. From plastic bags, reusable totes or travel-size cans, there are many makeshift trash bags you can use in your vehicle! When you keep a trash bag in your car, you don’t have to think twice about where to put fast food wrappers, empty water bottles or organic food items like an apple core. It’s the perfect solve for daily commutes to long road trips.
- Pack it out at convenient locations. Drugstores, grocery shops, strip malls and fast-food restaurants are just a handful of places that have trash cans available for use. Take advantage of these convenient stops to empty out your car. Bonus points if you do this every week!
- Plan ahead before trash pick-up day. We all have our set routines to plan ahead for the week, from grocery shopping to chores like laundry. Why shouldn’t that include taking care of our car, too? During the week, carve out time before your regular trash pick-up day to unload any trash from your vehicle. Five minutes is all you need to get your car ready to go while trash is left ready for pick up.
- Find a favorite car wash and go regularly. A clean car rocks, but a clean freeway? Even better. Most car wash companies offer memberships that allow you to cruise through the wash, wipe down your car and offer trash cans to get rid of any unwanted items while vacuuming out your car. The more often you get your car cleaned, the less likely trash is to pile up and lead to any unsightly and unwanted freeway litter.
Ultimately, any action you take to keep your car clean will help prevent freeway litter. Learn more Litter Facts.