RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – The trash along the freeway is more than just an eyesore. The North Carolina Department of Transportation said litter is a serious and costly problem.
CBS 17 viewer Lisa Vanderberry contacted CBS 17 with concerns about a pile of trash on the I-440 off-ramp near the Crabtree Valley Mall.
She said while driving along I-440 from Capital Boulevard to the Crabtree Valley Mall, she saw fast food bags and many plastic bottles. Vanderberry has called Raleigh her whole life and says she wants the city she loves to make an impression.
“Now that more and more people are coming to the area, I think it needs to be showcased in all its beauty,” Vanderberry said. “When it’s trashed and people don’t take care of where they live, it hurts my heart.”
Last year, NCDOT collected nearly 1.9 million pounds of trash along highways in Wake, Durham, and neighboring counties, and spent more than $2.2 million on waste management in the region.
Statewide, the department spent more than $19 million on waste management last year, which includes contractor cleanup, state forces, and Adopt- A-Highway, Litter Sweep and Swat-A-Litterbug, according to an NCDOT spokesperson.
The Sponsor-A-Highway program relies on contractors who negotiate with private entities to clean up waste. The NCDOT said it costs the department nothing.
“Millions of dollars are spent annually by NCDOT on waste management, funds that could be used to fix potholes, build bridges and improve our transportation system,” NCDOT said on its website.
“It’s sad that they have to spend resources cleaning up after other people,” Vanderberry said.
If you’re caught littering, you could be fined up to $1,000 the first time, CBS 17 has learned.
NCDOT also has the Swat-a-Litterbug program where you can report someone for littering by calling 1-800-331-5864 or by completing this online form with the vehicle license plate. Drivers cannot be punished by the program.
“I didn’t know about the program until you mentioned it,” Vanderberry said. “I think it’s a great program, but I wonder what impact it has on someone getting a letter that they’re just going to throw in the trash. Is it really going to make a difference?” says Vanderberry .
The NCDOT said it has sent more than 2,500 letters so far this year, urging drivers to stop littering.
The system does not track repeat offenders. The letters are part of a larger litter control effort.
The department said the anti-litter program costs less than $15,000 a year, including printing materials, mailing costs, staff and overhead.
Kenya Shuler has lived in Raleigh for two decades and said she has never seen litter this bad.
“We’re just better than that, I don’t know what gives, it degrades where we live for me, it feels like it’s not,” Shuler said.
The NCDOT said litter levels didn’t fluctuate much. A department spokesperson said he believed intentional litter decreased when roads were clean, but there was no research data to back that up.
According to an NCDOT report, the State Highway Patrol issued more than 400 littering citations last year.