Dave Brewer and Sage Park

Dave Brewer and Sage Park take part in the Spring Litter Sweep.

WATAUGA — As of Monday, April 19, more than 4 million pounds of litter has been picked up by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, contractors and volunteers in 2021.

This has been highlighted by their Spring Litter Sweep. Running from April 10-24, the sweep opens the door for volunteers around the state to take some time and help pick up litter along roadsides.

“Only a week in, and already the Spring Litter Sweep has helped tremendously in keeping our roadways clean,” said State Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette in a statement. “Keeping North Carolina clean requires everyone to do their part, whether that’s volunteering in the ongoing Litter Sweep or simply securing your load when you drive.”

According to NCDOT, more than 1 million pounds of litter has been picked up since April 1 alone.

Locally, Watauga residents have been putting in the time to help clean up the area. Life and health coach Bonnie Church and musician David Brewer helped put together a group in Watauga that has been working to clean up parts of N.C. 105.

“It’s a pretty straightforward procedure,” Church said. “You have a safety vest, which is really important since you have to be careful with traffic, put on some gloves, carry one bag for picking up trash and another for picking up recyclables and just do your due diligence. Then, once the bag is full, you just close it and call the DOT and they will come and pick it up.”

Elsewhere, Club 12 hosted a clean up day on April 10 in the area surrounding their building.

According to NCDOT, aside from hosting the litter sweep, the agency partners with more than 120,000 participants in the Adopt-A-Highway Program where volunteers pledge to clean a section of highways at least four times a year.

Church said the reaction to the sweep has been positive, but it has also highlighted the belief that the onus of keeping the roads clean does not just fall on the residents.

“Some people are enthusiastic, other people feel like it is too big a problem to address and that the onus of responsibility shouldn’t fall on the citizens, but should be something addressed on more of a transcendent level,” Church said. “The manufacturers and businesses should really consider their part in this and kick in some money to make this happen, rather than having it fall on your average citizen. Some people feel that way.”

Church said a big reason she got involved was remembering the Keep America Beautiful organization and the movement they started in her childhood. She added that for Watauga County, it has an effect on the larger tourism industry.

“Tourism is a key industry in our area, so it is an economic issue for us,” Church said. “Trash along the highways does not speak of a desirable destination to visit.”

For more information about — or to get involved with — the Spring Litter Sweep, visit www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/environmental/litter-management/Pages/litter-sweep.aspx.

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