PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to not liter.
In 2021, ADOT and its maintenance contractors picked up 118,578 bags of trash along freeways in Maricopa County, which is about 811 tons.
Since 2017, ADOT noticed an upward trend in the amount of litter accumulation along Valley freeways.
Litter has steadily increased along state freeways in Maricopa County during the past five years.
In 2017, ADOT picked up 80,442 bags of litter compared to the nearly 119,000 bags last year. That’s a 47% increase.
ADOT maintenance crews are able to clean about 250 miles along the freeway system once a week thanks to funding from the Maricopa Association of Governments.
“Drivers can help out by simply not littering,” said Mary Currie, who manages ADOT’s Adopt a Highway programs. “Don’t toss that burger wrapper, paper cup or cigarette butt out of the window. All of those seemingly small and insignificant items build up over time creating safety issues.”
Some of those safety issues include blockages of stormwater drainage grates, sometimes preventing water from flowing freely to retention basins, drainage channels, or pump stations.
That can cause standing water to build in low-lying locations along freeways. Over time, litter also can negatively impact the operation of pumps that remove storm runoff along some Phoenix-area freeways.
It’s also important to secure your load before traveling.
ADOT’s Incident Response Unit, whose job is to patrol Valley freeways to provide vital services including removing litter and debris blocking the road, responds to an average of 26 calls per week for debris blocking the highway.
In addition to ADOT maintenance crews cleaning the freeways, ADOT also provides a way to report litter.
Litter.AZ.gov allows witnesses to quickly share what they’ve seen through an automated chat feature. The site asks for just a few details, including license plate number, location, time and type of litter. The mission of ADOT’s Litter Hotline, which also is available by calling the toll-free phone number 877.3LITTER (877.354.8837), is public awareness rather than law enforcement.