Adopt a Highway: Trashed tires litter roadways

Adopt a Highway: Trashed tires litter roadways

By Mary Currie / ADOT Communications
April 4, 2023

The Arizona Department of Transportation receives hundreds of complaints about littered highways and more specifically, tire debris. 

ADOT maintenance costs to remove and dispose of tire waste from along maintained roadways have already exceeded $900,000 since July 2022. And that is separate from general litter maintenance operations.

Tire waste breaks down into small particles containing toxic chemicals that can harm the environment and leach into groundwater. Tire shards, sometimes referred to as “gators,” are hazards to travelers and the volunteers who dedicated hours removing litter from ADOT-maintained roadways. 

Gators are the remnants of a failed tire that has been resurfaced or retreaded. These tire pieces or long strips of rubber often resemble the checkered hide of an alligator – hence the name. 

Tire tread also contains thin wiring throughout the grain to help stabilize and strengthen the rubber. These wires are broken and exposed when tires blow out or retreads separate from the host tire. 

ADOT urges Adopt a Highway volunteers to wear gloves during highway cleanups and avoid sharp objects like tire wiring, or anything that may look dangerous or unfamiliar to them. If volunteers choose to pick up rubber within permitted areas, we ask them to carefully pile the rubber near filled trash bags rather than bag items that may puncture the bag. 

Before heading out on a road trip this spring, please take a few minutes before you go to inspect tires and check the tire pressure. Check out ADOT Road Trip Safety for more helpful travel tips. 

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to change a tire or call for roadside assistance, please consider stowing the damaged tire until it can be disposed of responsibly. Contact your county waste tire recycling office for more information on the proper disposal of used and damaged tires.