‘Litter Can Become a Projectile': Maryland Road Crews Step Up Efforts to Clear Highway Trash

Operation Clean Sweep will nearly double the frequency of litter pickup and mowing along Maryland roads

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Maybe you've noticed it as you've been driving around the Maryland: trash all over the side of the road. Along Interstate 95, right by the Laurel rest stop, litter and trash were visible pretty much everywhere. Now the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is kicking off its a new initiative to get these roads looking better.

"I see it everywhere, sometimes even around neighborhoods by us, and it really stinks," said traveler Dianna Rossi of the piled-up litter.

The SHA's new plan, dubbed Operation Clean Sweep, will nearly double the frequency of litter pickup and mowing along Maryland roads.

Removing all that trash adds up.

"On average, we remove about 5,200 truckloads of the big maintenance trucks, truckloads full of litter annually at a cost of more than $7 million," Charlie Gischlar of the Maryland State Highway Administration said.

And while the trash doesn't look good, there are also much bigger concerns. Crews will have to start cutting the grass soon because of the mild winter, and the trash can turn dangerous.

"Litter can become a projectile and hurt the people cutting the lawn or even the equipment," Gischlar said. "Or it can become a projectile and hit possibly a motorist, pedestrian or bicyclist."


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Garbage can also clog drains and gutters and wash down to waterways.

"I think it's disgusting," traveler Fred Wallach said. "You go to other places, like you go down to Florida – that’s where we just came from — and the roads are perfectly clean. It's interesting as you go further north, it gets dirtier and dirtier."

Maryland crews are asking you to report any areas where you see a lot of littler. You can do that on the State Highway Administration's website.

"I think people just are lazy. Yeah, they just throw things out, and they don’t even think about it," Rossi said while at a rest stop in Laurel. "I just threw my trash into a bag in my car, and then when I got here, I just dumped it into the trash bag."

Operation Clean Sweep will happen across the state, but crews are starting their efforts in the D.C. and Baltimore areas.

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