ADOT crews cleared more than 800 tons of litter in Maricopa County in 2021

By Ryan Harding / ADOT Communications

Can you imagine 800 tons of anything? Eight-hundred tons of African elephants would be about 114 of the massive mammals.Litter clean up

Eight-hundred tons is also how much litter and trash ADOT maintenance crews collected in 2021 along Maricopa County freeways. That’s a lot of litter and also a 47% increase in the amount of litter picked up in 2017.

Each week, ADOT maintenance crews are able to clean about 250 miles along the freeway system, thanks to funding from the Maricopa Association of Governments. Nevertheless, the amount of litter and trash increases along Valley freeways year after year. 

ADOT’s Incident Response Unit, sponsored by State Farm, responds to an average of 26 calls per week for debris blocking the highway. In fact, one-third of all the calls the IRU receives are for litter and debris obstructing highway travel lanes.

Recently in Tucson, ADOT maintenance crews from Casa Grande to Nogales banded together to pick up 44,000 pounds of trash along 25 miles of highways, working along I-10 from Ina to Valencia roads, and along I-19 from I-10 to Valencia Roads. 

While ADOT maintenance personnel are available to remove litter as part of their duties, their primary responsibility is to safety-related work such as guardrail repair, pavement maintenance and right-of-way fence repairs to keep livestock off roadways. 

But here’s the thing: this problem is entirely preventable by keeping litter in your vehicle until you get to your destination and securing your load. Tossing burger wrappers, paper cups and cigarette butts out of the window, while all seemingly small and insignificant items, build up over time and create safety issues.  

Trash build-up can also clog drainage systems and lead to water pooling on roadways. And large debris that falls onto roadways can be hazardous as drivers swerve to avoid the items.

So, let’s leave the items that can be measured in tons to large land animals. By securing your loads and keeping trash in your vehicle until you can throw it away at a stop or destination, you can help make a huge dent in the amount of trash collecting alongside our highways, clogging drainage systems and marring landscapes. 

To find out more about ADOT’s Adopt a Highway program and litter, visit azdot.gov/adoptahighway