MoDOT, KDOT address abundance of trash seen along highways

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Whether you’re driving down the highway in Kansas or Missouri, it’s something that’s hard to miss along the roadways: a whole lot of litter.

It’s wrapped in trees, tangled in fences, and spread out across the greenery. But, what’s causing the pileup?

“A lot of the trash we see is from trailers and loads that are not secured, so it’s not just the folks that litter and throw things from their car,” said Matt Killion, Assistant District Engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. “A majority of it that we see comes off trucks, comes off trailers that are not secured.”

Killion said they’ve hired a contractor to help pick up about 62 miles of roadways in the Kansas City area.

“Every two weeks, they return and they pick up the same amount of trash,” said Killion. “So, they’re removing about a thousand pounds a day from roadsides. So, the trash keeps coming. I thought we would make some ground at some point to where every two weeks it wouldn’t be as much, but it just keeps on coming.”

Killion said they have a good system in place but just can’t keep up, especially when they don’t have enough staff on hand.

“Everywhere else depends on staff availability,” Killion said. “In the urban area, we are faced with a significant staffing shortage that impacts our ability to remove trash from the roadsides.”

MoDOT’s statewide litter-prevention campaign, No MOre Trash!, will begin in April. Each year, MoDOT removes litter from more than 385,000 acres of roadsides along 34,000 state highway miles.

All the litter pickup comes with a hefty price.

“Last year, we spent about $7.7 million both in effort and with contractors to remove litter from the roadsides,” Killion said. “This year we expect to spend $9 million both with MoDOT staff and contractors.”

MoDOT said that, even with all their efforts, picking up the trash isn’t the solution. It needs to be a collective effort with the community not to litter, which you can be fined up to $1,000 for and even face jail time.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said that, on their side of the metro, “roadside litter is addressed in various ways.”

“Spring construction and recent high winds have led to a seasonal increase in what is visible along area highways,” KDOT said.

They said “KDOT crews regularly collect roadside litter.” Plus, volunteers and the litter removal service with Adopt-A-Highway collect trash in designated areas.

Since June of 2021, KDOT contracted services have collected 210 tons of trash in the KC metro.

Drivers are asked to secure loose loads when traveling. If you find a big piece of debris on the highway, you can call *47 (*582 on Kansas Turnpike) for immediate assistance.

“KDOT extends a hearty THANK YOU to those who are active in helping to keep our public highways clean,” they added.