(Published January 2004)
Keeping our highways clean is a difficult challenge. It is likely that we have all accidentally littered. The composition of trash found along highways characterizes the most frequent litterers, and reflects on our society. Similar results have emerged from many studies.
Cigarette butts along with other tobacco-related items are by far the most abundant trash found along highways. If smokers insist on compromising their health by smoking, they at least need to learn to use their ash trays and dispose of the contents properly (not in a parking lot).
After tobacco products, refuse from the fast food industry is the most abundant trash found alongside highways. Beverage cups, caps and straws, along with product packaging are the most common items, about equally divided between plastic and more easily degradable paper. Household items, especially food-related, constitute the next most abundant category of debris. In most cases the brand name is identifiable. Aluminum cans are usually obvious because they are shiny, but they constitute only about 10% of all highway debris. Glass only contributes only a few percent to the debris. Items associated with smoking and eating make up nearly two-thirds of the debris collected from typical highways during clean-up.
Clearly, the fast-food industry, including convenience stores, needs to be more responsible in using easily degradable packaging, in trying to educate people, especially children, not to litter the roadside and in taking responsibility by helping to clean up the highways around their stores. In Northumberland County, the only food-related enterprise that has adopted a highway is Cockrell’s Creek Seafood Deli and none of the fast-food stores in Kilmarnock have adopted highways in Lancaster County. But it is ultimately the litterers themselves who are responsible for almost of all our highway trash, and who are subject to fines for their actions.
In addition to food and smoking-related items, just about anything can be found alongside highways. Hubcaps are common, and certainly accidental. It is difficult to understand, however, how a battery can fall out of a vehicle accidentally. We must conclude, unfortunately, that a few people consciously use the highways as dumps.
In Northumberland County, 169 miles of highway have been adopted by 70 sponsors at the end of 2003 (this Stewardship Tip was originally published in January, 2004, and some of the subsequent statements may no longer apply). Citizen concern for clean highways is exemplary in Northumberland County, where there are more sponsors than in the other three Northern Neck counties combined. But there are some glaring problems. A visitor journeying along our major highways will currently find 7 stretches along US 360 and VA 200, 201 and 202 with blue Adopt-a-Highway signs announcing they are “OPEN FOR ADOPTION.” The white “OPEN FOR ADOPTION” plates, installed over the previous sponsor’s name, stand out like sore thumbs and announce that some sponsor stopped cleaning the highway, and nobody will assume the responsibility. Surely, we can do better!
Here is a list of abandoned adoption stretches on major highways or visible from them, in addition to two stretches never adopted, together with the names of adjoining adopters.
US 360 between VA 657 and VA 703 (Cockrell’s Creek Seafood Deli)
US 360 at Burgess, between VA 646N (Chesapeake Bay Garden Club) and VA 640N
US 360 west of Burgess between VA 640N and VA 752 (Macedonia Brotherhood Club)
US 360 between VA 612 (Northumberland Senior FAA Chapter) and VA 614 (Coan River Marina) – never adopted
US 360 between VA 202 and the county line
VA 200 between VA 609 at Wicomico Church (NAPS) and VA 606 (Lancaster-Northumberland Master Gardeners)
VA 201 south of Heathsville
VA 202 east of Callao between USMC League #1062 and James E. Headley Oyster Company – never adopted
VA 640 north of US 360
Will you help? For businesses it is great free advertisement along heavily traveled roads. The requirements are simple, and can be found at www.virginiadot.org or by calling 1-800-PRIDE-VA.
Here is a list of current sponsors in Northumberland County provided by VDOT, as of December 2003:
Afton United Methodist Church
Bay Harbor Property Owners
Bay Quarter Shores Youth
Bayview Estates & White Sands Harbor (A.C.T.)
Bluegreen Properties of VA
“The Boy Scouts”
Callao Ruritan Club
Chesapeake Bay Garden Club
Coan Baptist Youth Group
Coan River Marina
Cockrell’s Creek Seafood Deli
Community of Lara
Dividing Creek Association
Friends and Neighbors of Bogey Neck Road
Friends in Horn Harbor
Greater Wicomico Sportsman Club
Hacks Neck Hunt Club
Henderson Methodist Youth Fellowship
Highland Point Community
James E. Headley Oyster Company
Jones-Ash Funeral Home
Keyser Brothers Seafood
Knights Run Hunt Club
Lake Packing Co., Inc.
Lancaster-Northumberland Master Gardeners
Landmark Services Inc.
Locksley Hall Estates/Forest Green Association
Lottsburg VDOT Team
Macedonia Brotherhood Club
Memory of Otis F. Palmer
Men of Sherwood Forest
Men of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Fleeton
Mid-County Volunteer Rescue Squad
Neighbors Along 609
Neighbors for a Clean Highway
Northern Neck Center of the MPNN-CSB
Northumberland Junior Women’s club
Northumberland Lions Club
Northumberland Lodge 220
Northumberland Preservation, Inc.
Northumberland Senior FAA Chapter
Old Bundick Steamboat Wharf
Owl Haven Farm
Peaceful Point Farm
Pride of Virginia Seafood
Reedville Fishermen’s Museum
Rehoboth Church Ruritan Club
Remo Hunt Club
Rivers Knoll Home Owners Association
Shiloh Baptist Church
Smithland Royal Ambassadors and Brotherhood
Stratford Harbour Property Owner’s Assoc., Inc.
Sunnybank Property Owners
Swann’s Motor Service
The Wirts and The Johnstons
Tides on the Chesapeake Association
Tidewater Hunt Club
USMC League #1062