Litter-getters save NC taxpayers millions

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Adopt-a-Highway sign near U.S. 401 South

CONCORD, N.C.— Who would think that the trash on the side of N.C. roadways adds up to roughly $4 million a year? But thanks to The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway Program that is what taxpayers in the Tarheel State save annually. The NCDOT boasts that their AAH program is one of the largest in the nation, representing approximately 6,000 groups that include around 125,000 volunteers statewide.It’s more than just a way to beautify roadways. The NCDOT says many volunteer groups have used the proceeds from the metal they have collected as a source of revenue. Many types of groups participate in the AAH Program including school, civic, business, religious, professional and social groups. Individuals and families also adopt some sections of highways as well. Groups who adopt enter into a four-year agreement with the NCDOT promising to clean a minimum of four times per year. Volunteer Jim Smith says, “It’s not so bad. You spend a couple of hours on a Saturday picking up and bagging a little bit of litter, and afterwards you feel good about yourself.”There are 59 local AAH coordinators statewide who oversee program volunteers in their counties. When a group signs up to pick up, their local coordinator works with them to select an available piece of roadway, roughly two miles long. Coordinators make sure participants watch a safety video and adhere to certain rules of the road, and anyone engaging in cleanup efforts must be at least 12 years old. Those between the ages of 12 and 17 must be supervised by an adult and have a release form signed by a parent or guardian. Volunteers must also wear orange safety vests and work gloves provided by the NCDOT.Groups that adopt a roadway get some recognition, too. It comes in the form of a green sign that lets passerby know they care about clean.Direct questions about the Adopt-A-Highway Program to the NCDOT Office of Beautification, 1540 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27690-1540; Phone: 1-800-331-5865 (N.C. only) or 919-707-2970.