Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Adopt-a-Highway volunteers are returning to the roads

Please help keep them safe and also do your part to prevent litter along our highways

By Barbara LaBoe

After more than a year of being suspended due to the pandemic our volunteer Adopt-a-Highway groups are heading back out to help clear roadway trash and litter.

Starting Saturday, May 1, the groups can resume their important work helping keep our highways clean. And they'll find plenty of work.

During the pandemic shut downs and suspension of programs, the trash on our roadways has unfortunately increased. Our agency doesn't have dedicated cleaning crews – nor the funding to create them – and we've shared the public's dismay at this development. (It's also affecting our partner agencies, who likewise have had to cut back or suspend work). We've been working hard to re-start our volunteer program, but we needed to be sure we could do so in a way that kept the volunteers and our employees safe.
Adopt-a-Highway volunteers hard at work cleaning up our roadsides. (Photo taken pre-pandemic).

Now, in addition to the regular safety training our volunteers undergo, they'll also be following additional COVID-19 protocols. That includes wearing the correct mask, maintaining physical distancing and health screenings. Safety equipment loaned to each group will also be sanitized before and after each cleaning.

Please keep an extra eye out for these dedicated volunteers as they return to our roadsides and other areas. And please move over a lane if possible, or slow down as you pass them at work. They're working to improve our roadways for everyone.

We need everyone's help to prevent trash on our roadways
We're thrilled to bring our volunteer groups back, but we do want to note that trash along roadsides was a growing issue even before the pandemic. Our volunteers do wonderful work, but they can't "solve" the roadside trash problem on their own.

That's where you come in. What's more effective is keeping trash from ever reaching the highways in the first place. We're asking everyone to lend a hand, being sure you secure all loads and properly dispose of refuse. This is much easier and cheaper than clearing trash from roadways.

Here is the average estimated breakdown of the various groups that collect and dispose of litter on the state highway system in an average year:
  • 40% - Adopt-a-Highway Volunteers – Pick up and bag litter.
  • 25% - Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) – Pick up and bag litter.
  • 15% - WSDOT Maintenance Personnel – Pick up and dispose of bags filled with litter by others. Also removal and disposal of large debris (i.e. mattresses, tire carcasses) and roadkill. 
  • 10% - Local Government Corrections Crews – Pick up and bag litter.
  • 10% - State Department of Corrections Crews – Pick up and bag litter .
Become involved
Want to become even more involved in keeping our state beautiful? Consider forming your own Adopt-a-Highway group.
We provide road signs, safety equipment and
training to Adopt-a-Highway volunteer groups,
and also pick up and dispose of the bags
 of trash they collect. (Photo taken pre-pandemic).

Our Adopt-a-Highway volunteer program began in 1990 and several counties and cities have similar programs. In addition to roads, trails and beaches also have been adopted by volunteer groups. Here are some details about the program:
  • Individuals or groups can "adopt" a section of state highway by agreeing to take care of it for a two-year period. Volunteer groups may be clubs, employees of a business, or concerned citizens. All participants must be at least 15 years of age and in good health.
  • Typically, an assigned section includes between two and four miles of roadside.
  • We install signs, giving recognition to the individual or group that has adopted the highway.
  • We also provide traffic control equipment, safety equipment, safety training and  litter bags, and we pick up and dispose of filled bags for the volunteers.
If you'd like to learn more about the Adopt-a-Highway programs in your area, please visit our website ( for details and regional coordinator contact information.


Dennis Higgins said...

Hope the state will restore the 866-LITTER1 hotline ...

WSDOT said...


That wasn’t our program but the Department of Ecology is developing a new anti-litter campaign after receiving new funding, and we’re happy to be a partner in those efforts.

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