Highway Littering Facts

Freeway Trash - hubcapIt costs our region about $3,000,000 and nearly 150,000 labor hours each year to pick up trash along Valley freeways.

ADOT crews pick up an average 12,647 bags of litter from Valley freeways each month, or about 151,000 bags per year.

Each bag of trash weighs an average 10.635 lbs., representing 134,501 pounds (67.25 tons) a month, or about 1.6 million pounds of trash (803 tons) per year.

Litter found on freeways includes food cartons, Styrofoam cups, napkins, plastic utensils, snack-food wrappers, matches, soft drink bottles and cans, paper bags, tissues, plastic sheets, film, boxes, clothes, newspapers, magazines, metal foil, anti-freeze and motor oil containers, grease, paint thinner, tires and much, much more.

Litter on Freeways

  • 51.2 billion pieces of litter are left on roadways in the United States equaling 6,729 pieces per mile.
  • 12,647 bags of litter are picked up from Valley freeways each month, totaling 1.6 million lbs. of litter each year.

Keep America Beautiful cites four primary sources of roadway litter:

  1. Tobacco products, mostly cigarette butts (38%)
  2. Paper (22%)
  3. Plastic (19%)
  4. Improperly covered truck or cargo loads (16.4%)

Littering is not only unsightly, it can cause environmental and health problems. Cigarette butts, for example, contain toxic chemicals that can end up in storm drains and contaminate our water systems. Trash and other items falling from unsecured loads can cause serious traffic accidents.

Debris on roadways nationwide causes 25,000 accidents each year and more than 80 fatalities. Between 1999 and 2001, Arizona reported 5 fatal accidents due to road debris. Accidents and slowdowns due to road debris also cause delays and increase the time we spend stuck in traffic.

Littering can cost drivers and their passengers a misdemeanor fine of $500 in the state of Arizona.

ADOT has more than 1,500 Adopt a Highway volunteers and sponsors helping litter cleanup efforts statewide.

If you witness someone littering, you can call the litter hotline at 1-877-3LITTER (354-8837)

RESOURCES:

This document is available as a printable page.

Don’t Trash Arizona Litter Prevention and Education Program Frequently Asked Questions (pdf)

Litter Fact Sheet (pdf)

MAG Litter Survey August 2010 (PDF)

MAG Litter Survey August 2009 (PDF)

MAG Litter Survey August 2008 (PDF)

MAG Litter Survey December 2006 (PDF)