PHOENIX (March 12, 2019)—Crews collected more than 104,000 pounds of litter on the State Route 51 last year—making it the most-littered freeway in Maricopa County in 2018. Numbers released today by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Don't Trash Arizona show crews collected 8,019 trash bags of plastic bottles, cigarette butts, wrappers and other ugly litter from the segment. Each bag weighs an average 13.69 lbs.
In all, crews collected more than 1.1 million lbs. of litter from Maricopa County freeways last year. One piece of litter may seem small to the person tossing it, but the impact on our state's economy, environment and safety is significant. It takes crews more than 150,000 hours each year to remove highway litter—at a cost of about $4 million to Maricopa County taxpayers. Litter also can affect tourism and business attraction.
The second-most littered freeway segment was a 17-mile stretch of the Loop 202 (Santan Freeway), from the US-60 (Superstition) to SR-87. In third place was a six-mile segment of the Loop 101 (Pima Freeway), from Princess Drive to Loop 202 (Red Mountain). These sections are some of the busiest in the state and have heavy traffic using the on- and off-ramps where litter commonly builds up.
Don't Trash Arizona is a litter education program conducted by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) in partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation.
"Although Don't Trash Arizona has made strides in decreasing litter, the latest hot spots report reminds us there's still educational work to be done," said Queen Creek Mayor and MAG Chair Gail Barney. "We will continue to remind Arizonans that our state is not an ashtray, trashcan or junkyard—it is our home."
Beyond the economic toll, toxic chemicals in cigarette butts and other items can contaminate our water systems and harm wildlife. Dangerous road debris such as ladders and furniture that ends up in the roadway threatens the lives of Arizona drivers and creates traffic congestion. The good news is that highway litter in the Valley has decreased by nearly 31 percent since the launch of Don't Trash Arizona. The total number of bags collected in 2018 was 89,896, compared to 130,443 bags collected in 2006, when the program began.
Drivers can help decrease litter on Arizona highways a number of ways:
- Keep a travel trash bag in the car and refrain from tossing trash out the window, including cigarette butts
- Remove trash from the beds of pickup trucks and ensure that vehicle loads are properly secured with tarps and tie downs
- Report highway litterers at DontTrashAZ.com or call the litter hotline at 1-877-3-LITTER (877-354-8837)