NCDOT’s Litter Sweep Campaign is Hitting the Highways

Trash laying on side of road
Monday, April 15, 2019 - 3:03pm

Unsafe roadways, lowered property values and damaged ecosystems are all lasting consequences of litter.

Each year in the United States, 51 billion pieces of litter can be found strewn along roadsides, according to Keep America Beautiful. In our state, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) spent more than $15 million on cleanup and removed nearly 7.5 million pounds of roadside litter in 2015. 

To combat the negative impacts of litter and create safe, beautiful roadways, NCDOT holds an annual “Litter Sweep,” which promotes roadside cleanup by volunteers and state employees. This year’s Litter Sweep is April 13 – 27.

During Litter Sweep, NCDOT provides necessary resources for volunteers to safely pick up roadside litter. NCDOT maintenance crews also work throughout the week to pick up litter and gather bags of litter collected by volunteers. Over last year’s Litter Sweep, more than 500,000 pounds of litter were collected.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) is also teaming up with NCDOT during this year’s campaign. Unsecured loads in vehicles are a widespread issue, according to NCSHP. Large, unsecured materials in the back of vehicles like furniture, lawn equipment and organic debris can end up as litter and create a safety concern for other vehicles on the roadway. 

“Our goal for Operation Litter Sweep is to change behavior,” Sgt. Chris Knox said. “We hope that through enforcement, people will think twice before willfully littering on roadways or not securing loads properly.” 

Though troopers are always on the lookout for littering and unsecured loads, an extra emphasis will be placed on catching individuals throughout the duration of the campaign.

Taylor Medlock, a student at Barton College in Wilson, N.C., participated in Litter Sweep last year. “The Gamma Xi Chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma has adopted a highway, and we enjoy the opportunity to help clean up the community,” Medlock said. “We go out and pick up litter at least once a semester, usually more, and it is always a great experience.” 

With everyone coming together across the state, it is truly an opportunity to make a large, positive impact on our communities and make North Carolina roadways a safer and more pleasant place to travel.  

Volunteers for Litter Sweep can sign up through colleges, high schools, churches and non-profit organizations. For more information on this program including how to get involved, visit

Tyler Mayes