If one wants to know what the weather’s like, just look at the side of the road. Workers at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) know the relationship between temperature and trash.
“Our maintenance workers said they have seen more litter this year, possibly due to the unseasonably warm weather,” said MoDOT Senior Customer Relations Specialist Kara Price. “It seems that when car windows go down, more litter appears.”
Price’s observation came after a recent clean-up event gathered 70 bags of trash along a 1-mile stretch of Interstate 70 near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. (That works out to about one bag of litter for every 75 feet along the route.)
Overall, MoDOT spends more than $5 million each year for litter control and beautification. That total would be even higher, except for the efforts of more than 3,700 volunteer groups who participate in Missouri’s Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) Program. In West St. Louis County, Missouri Routes 100 in Wildwood and 109 in Wildwood and Eureka, along with Interstate 44, are roads within the program.
See related article: 'Girls On The Run' Are Ready To Go
Price said that volunteers are asked only to pick up litter in areas along a roadway, never to try to gather debris in driving lanes. The most common litter problem, she said, is fast-food waste.
“Usually, when someone is considering adopting, they have a general idea of where they would like to be located (near their home, business, church, etc.), explained Price. “The potential adopter works with the local AAH coordinator at MoDOT to determine if the spot is available for adoption.”
Volunteers agree to collect litter and submit a report to MoDOT at least four times a year. The department provides safety training and materials, litter bags and collection and disposal of filled bags.
Community leaders, such as Mikel Garrett, a State Farm agent in Wildwood, make it an annual endeavor.
MoDOT managers estimate the volunteers save the department $1.5 million per year in cleanup costs. In the St. Louis area alone, nearly 400 groups participate. Statewide, MoDOT says about 3,200 volunteer groups cover more than 5,200 miles of roadway. Volunteers are recognized by the familiar signs with a group’s name posted on each end of the adopted highway section.
In addition to litter control, Adopt-A-Highway also allows volunteers to participate in mowing and beautification programs, including planting Missouri native wildflowers on the roadside and maintaining the plantings.
“The number of miles adopted by volunteers continues to go up,” Price said. “About 20 percent of the state routes are adopted.” But she adds, many areas are still available.
For more information about adopting roadways in Wildwood or Eureka, call 888-ASK MODOT (275-6636) and ask for the Adopt-A-Highway coordinator or email email@example.com.