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The Daily Tar Heel

NCDOT begins second phase of biannual litter sweep, encourages volunteer participation

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Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The second installment of the 2022 North Carolina Department of Transportation’s biannual Litter Sweep is underway as of Sept. 10. 

The Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are participating in the sweep, and are encouraging their residents to participate in clearing roadside trash through Sept. 24. The initiative is part of a statewide waste disposal program to protect North Carolina’s watersheds from being polluted.

Community volunteers are supplied gloves, reversible trash bags and an orange safety vest required to be worn during the volunteer process.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services encouraged residents to use the bright orange trash bags for waste disposal or the reversible blue side for glass, metal and plastic recycling materials. Participants must dispose of the recyclables themselves. 

The Litter Sweep has a spring and fall program, with the spring section happening in April. Like this coming fall installment, the program lasted for of two weeks. 

During the final day of the fall program, Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents can participate in a joint clean-up of Highway 54 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Morgan Flynt, a UNC student and the volunteer coordinator for the Chapel Hill Stormwater Management Department, is heading this joint clean-up.

“I hope that this initiative will build community around doing litter cleanup and also get the word out that we do provide supplies if folks want to do litter cleanup later on if they find that they really enjoy participating in this one,” Flynt said.

Sammy Bauer, the community education coordinator for the Stormwater Management Department, said some of the major concerns of roadway pollution include dangerous runoff into the nearby Jordan Lake.

The biannual Litter Sweep is one way to help educate about the harmful effects of pollution while building a sense of community, she explained. 

“It’s a community problem, which requires some community solutions and there's a lot of different ways to approach these, like managing some trash issues,” Bauer said. “One really effective way is to offer folks an opportunity to just meet their neighbors and help pick up trash along the road or in a stream. It makes everyone really excited.”

In addition to the efforts made by the community, the local NCDOT maintenance crew dedicates a week to clean-up.

Harris Kay, a communications officer for NCDOT, said that this past year’s combined efforts yielded 13.5 million pounds of litter removed from state-maintained roadways. He added that an estimated $19 million was spent on garbage removal, funds that could have been allocated to roadway maintenance and beautification.

“An average year for us is about 10 million pounds of litter so every single person in the state just picked up a single pound, you know, we wouldn't ever have to have the DOT out there,” Kay said. “So our main goal is really just continuing to expand and broaden public awareness of this program.”

NCDOT has released promotional posters to encourage citizens to volunteer locally.

“Our goals are just to make sure as many people are aware of it as possible, and continue to make it as easy as possible to get involved,” Kay said. 

More information for the sweep can be found on the NCDOT website, including local contacts and guidelines. Citizens can also visit their local NCDOT maintenance office to receive the materials needed to aid in the sweep. 

@DTHCityState | 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article provided an incorrect estimate for the amount spent on garbage removal by the NCDOT last year. The correct figure is $19 million. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

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