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The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) spent $1 million last year to pick up roadside trash. Manpower and dollars used to keep Rhode Island’s roads, highways and bridges clean cannot go towards other more enduring improvements.

“When RIDOT commemorates next year’s Earth Day we would like to be able to say that zero dollars were used toward this effort,” said RIDOT’s Director Michael Lewis. “Everyone who disposes of trash improperly on our roads contributes to this waste.”

The $1 million used to pick up the trash gets spent on inmate litter crews, traffic control and refuse disposal. Those dollars, which come out of the gas tax, take away from RIDOT’s ability to fill more potholes, mow more grass, and sweep more highways.

Crews typically have to pick up beverage containers including water, soda and alcohol bottles, fast food packaging, and cigarette butts. Nationally fast food waste, paper products, and aluminum beer cans make up most of the trash.

While 55 percent of roadside litter occurs intentionally by people dropping their trash on the road, the other 45 percent of roadside litter is caused by trash blowing out of uncovered trucks or falling off of unsecured loads.

“It is not just environmental waste, but economic waste as well,” said Lewis. “In these economic times every dollar counts, so we ask everyone to put trash in its proper place. Out a car window isn’t one of them.”

Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, making this the 39th celebration. Over 20 million people celebrated the first Earth Day. Today over 1 billion people celebrate it worldwide.

Contact: Dana Alexander Nolfe 401-222-1362 x4450


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Department or agency: Department of Transportation