Crews are likely to pick up more than 5 million pounds of rubbish along the streets, which is less than half of what is estimated to be thrown away.
PUYALLUP, Washington — Things are looking cleaner after numerous complaints about trash along State Route 512. Crews spent seven days over the course of two weeks clearing 24,480 pounds of rubbish near Puyallup.
“We found a time where it worked and we got the crew out of there. It took a couple of days, but we were able to clean up a very difficult stretch,” said Andrew Wineke, deputy director of communications for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The Department of Environment worked with the Washington State Department of Transportation to close lanes along SR 512 to allow crews to access the median and clear debris. Wineke said the surgery took months of planning.
This year crews are likely to pick up more than 5 million pounds of rubbish along the roads, which is not half of what is estimated.
“We estimate that 12 million pounds of trash falls on our state’s streets every year. There is no way to get out of the problem. The key to solving the garbage problem is prevention,” Wineke said.
The Department of Ecology said roadside litter causes hundreds of accidents each year. The department’s research shows that 25% of Washington residents admit to leaving behind litter. However, 40% of litter comes from people not securing their cargo.
“Probably the rudest things we pick up, I don’t even know if I should say that, there are urine bottles,” said Wineke.
Disposing of oils, chemicals and other polluting toxins makes the job a challenge.
“It’s gross, but that’s what our crews have to deal with,” Wineke said.
It’s only been a few days since crews cleaned up along SR 512 and the rubbish is already returning. It’s a sign that there are still miles to go before this problem is resolved.
“I think it’s a never-ending task, but it’s not a hopeless task,” Wineke said.
Research by the department shows that for people who throw out their rubbish, having a bin liner in their car would help deter them from dumping rubbish on the street. The department said it has included reusable litter bags in a future Keep WA Litter Free campaign.