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Litter removal program helping cleanup highways

POSTED April 21, 2016 6:01 p.m.

The highways that pass through the Central Valley got some sprucing up Thursday with Caltran’s annual statewide Litter Removal and Enforcement Day.

Caltrans maintenance crews picked up litter in the eight counties serviced by Caltrans District 10.  Motorists in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties saw crews working on highways and freeways throughout the day removing litter and debris discarded by the public. 

Not only is highway litter an unsightly problem, it is also a costly one. In 2014, the department spent approximately $62 million on litter removal.

According to Keep California Beautiful, the most frequently littered items are cigarette butts, which take a long time to degrade because 95 percent of the makeup is from cellulose acetate, a plastic that has been found to take 18 months to 10 years to degrade

In addition to the economic costs, litter presents a wide range of serious threats to the environment and human health: wildlife suffers from plastics in the ecosystem; roadside vegetation is damaged by large debris; fires are started from burning cigarettes; harmful chemicals and biohazards cause a serious threat to human health; litter clogs roadway drainage systems and leads to highway flooding, congestion and accidents; and aids in the spread of disease.

A key partnership in keeping the litter off the highways is the Adopt-A-Highway program that Caltrans operates. The Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway program provides an avenue for individuals, organizations, or businesses to help maintain sections of roadside within California's State Highway System. Groups have the option to participate as volunteers or to hire a maintenance service provider to perform the work on their behalf.

More than 120,000 Californians have cleaned and enhanced over 15,000 shoulder-miles of roadside, since the program began in 1989.

Participation can include one or more of the following activities: Removing litter (work frequency varies with location); Planting and establishing trees or wildflowers; Removing graffiti; and Controlling vegetation.

The Adopt-A-Highway program is solely administered by the California Department of Transportation. Adoptions usually span a two-mile stretch of roadside, and permits are issued for five-year periods. Groups in good standing may renew their permits indefinitely. Participation is free for all volunteers, and signs are included at no charge. Contractors charge fees for their services.

For more information on the Adopt-A-Highway Program, please visit www.adopt-a-highway.dot.ca.gov or call Kathy Cockayne, District 10 Adopt-A-Highway Coordinator, at (209) 948-7462.

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