A recent report from the Washington State Department of Ecology (WSDOE) revealed how trashy the state's roads and highways were last year. More than 5.4 million pounds of litter was collected from roadways across the Evergreen State in 2022, according to the agency's annual litter report.
There was over 1,500 pounds of trash per mile on main highways in Washington state's urban areas, a DOE spokesperson told KOMO. In rural areas, it was nearly 1,000 pounds of litter per mile along state highways. Almost half of the trash was collected in Island, King, Kitsap, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties, reporters learned.
"Some of our contracted crews that we work with, that company works in a number of other states, and they said in some of the areas they’re cleaning in Washington, they were picking up more litter than they did in places like New York City," Amber Smith, DOE's statewide litter prevention coordinator, said.
It's a pretty expensive job, too. Officials said WSDOE and the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) spent over $12 million to pick up trash.
Luckily, the agency also has many plans to cut down on discarded waste this year. For starters, officials said they're going to restart their Adopt-A-Highway program after it was suspended during the pandemic. They're also getting help from a maintenance company to keep the roads clean, teaming up with Fred Meyer to offer free reusable car litter bags, and announced state and local government initiatives.
DOE also encourages drivers to place their trash in a bag inside their cars instead of throwing it out the window. Toss it out when there's a nearby garbage can or recycling bin. Officials also said to secure any loads attached to your vehicle.
"We really need everyone’s help to turn the tide on litter in Washington," Smith said. "It takes all of us working together."