Efforts will soon be underway to clean-up Ashe County’s roadsides and other state maintained roads across N.C..
The N.C. Department of Transportation’s (N.C. DOT) annual spring Litter Sweep will commence on Saturday, April 26 and run through Saturday, May 10.
According to a press release from the N.C. DOT, the department will provide “all litter removal gear, including safety vests, gloves and bags. Anyone wanting to volunteer should contact their county N.C. DOT maintenance office in advance to obtain supplies.”
N.C. DOT crews will be deployed in each county throughout the state for litter pick-up and to collect trash bags left on the roadsides by volunteer groups participating in the cleanup.
Anyone or group can participate in the Litter Sweep.
Elaine Graham, executive director of Keep Ashe Beautiful, and other representatives will be on hand this weekend, outside the Museum of Ashe County History, to inform folks about the Litter Sweep and the group’s other plans to tackle the problem of litter and unnecessary outdoor waste in the county.
Keep Ashe Beautiful is the county affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful organization, a non-profit that educates individuals about litter prevention and ways to reduce outdoor waste.
“We’re hoping people will go out into their yards or businesses and pick up any trash that may be laying around,” Graham said. “Even if they didn’t put it there, litter is still litter.”
“We want to encourage people to be proactive and pick it up,” Graham said.
Law enforcement will also be on the look-out during the Litter Sweep.
The N.C. Highway Patrol will be implementing their “Litter Free N.C.” initiative by enforcing unsecured loads and other state litter laws.
According to N.C. General Statute, those guilty of intentional or unintentional littering are subject to fines in excess of $100 and 24 hours of community service.
The can of soda or empty coffee cup that a careless driver tosses from his or her car window with total abandon may not have cost much to them, but the cost of removing it and the millions of others is huge.
“It’s very expensive for the state,” Graham said. “It costs in the millions, per year (to remove litter from roadsides).”
Graham and volunteers with Keep Ashe Beautiful take trips to different sections of the county throughout the year, to take what she calls a “litter index.”
Most of the “problem areas” in the county are located at or near the county’s five convenience centers.
There are convenience centers located at 6311 U.S. 221 (West Jefferson), 2839 N.C. 16 North (Crumpler), 198 Bear Creek Road (Jefferson), 11775 N.C. 88 West (Creston) and 244 McNeil Road (Warrensville).
Graham said most of the litter found near the convenience centers likely comes from poorly secured household garbage, flying out of the backs of cars or truck beds.
“It’s probably unintentional,” Graham said. “They (drivers) probably don’t even notice it.”
During the Litter Sweep, Graham said Keep Ashe Beautiful will be working with the Boy Scouts of America and Interact Club, cleaning up roadsides near the convenient centers.
Graham said excess litter strewn about on county roadsides sends a bad message and gives Ashe County a bad reputation among tourists, and can even serve as an inviting sign to would-be criminals.
“It tells people we don’t care,” Graham said. “It tells criminals they (property owners) don’t care either.”
“We have such a great county,” Graham said. “Ashe County really is a beautiful place to live.”
In addition to the Litter Sweep, Graham said Keep Ashe Beautiful is also working on partnering with Goodwill Industries to orchestrate a shoe drive sometime later this spring or summer.
“We want to encourage people to donate their used shoes rather than throwing them in the garbage,” Graham said. “It takes leather 50 years to decompose.”
While 50 years sounds like a lot, it’s nothing compared to the amount of time it takes for plastic to decompose.
“It’s probably 10 times that amount for plastic,” Graham said.
Those interested in finding out more about the Litter Sweep should contact the local N.C. DOT maintenance office at 336-903-9101. The office is located at 801 Statesville Road in North Wilkesboro.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.