Sponsor-A-Highway groups having difficulty collecting the massive amount of trash on NC roads

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A spokesperson for Johnson Automotive is speaking out to CBS 17 about the ongoing litter problem on North Carolina roads and highways.

Johnson Automotive marketing director Erick Kirks says the trash is getting out of control and that their crews can’t keep up. The company sponsors 575 miles of roads statewide to keep them clean of litter.

“We’re contracted to pick up once a month for every area that we sponsor. The DOT is supposed to be supplementing those. They used to supplement those even in the areas that we sponsor,” said Kirks.

According to a spokesperson with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, crews had to cut back on mow and litter pick-up cycles because of ongoing fiscal and pandemic challenges.

“Crews are mowing just three times this year in many places as opposed to six. Litter is typically picked up right before mowing. The two things go hand-in-hand,” said Marty Homan with NCDOT.

Since the DOT cut back on mowing, Johson Automotive says weeds are growing so tall in some locations that their crews can’t safely pick up trash.

“So, when they mowed it just turned every piece of trash into a hundred and that’s what started happening in June and July around the Triangle,” said Kirks.

The NCDOT said when it suspended routine mowing and litter pick up earlier this year, they were informed that the Sponsor-A-Highway contractor would not be picking up trash due to concerns with snakes and ticks.

“Once we were able to resume mowing, we had to mow everything to remove the concern of snakes and ticks before litter pickup was again an option,” Homan said.

Johnson Automotive acknowledged NCDOT crews are only able to do so much and hope people won’t litter. Kirks says they’ve been able to organize citizen trash pick-ups and are finding ways to educate people not to throw trash on North Carolina roads.

“Just last week, someone from Ohio and another from Washington State took the time to comment. So you know, how many people notice that don’t say anything. I think it’s a bigger issue than what legislatures and city officials are willing to really talk about,” said Kirks.

NCDOT crews are beginning a full litter sweep starting this week of the sponsored highway routes in Division 5 to get back on a routine mowing and litter control cycle.

“With the volumes of traffic being served by the Sponsor-A-Highway route, as litter is being picked up, new litter is accumulating immediately behind the crews. If there is a mowing operation behind the litter cycle, then inevitably there will be some litter that is going to be mowed,” said Homan.

The NCDOT had to cancel its annual fall and spring litter sweeps because of the pandemic. CBS 17 is told over 4.5 million pounds of trash has been collected on roads statewide since the start of January. That number was close to 9 million at this time last year.

Click this link to find out how you can help keep North Carolina roads clean.

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