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May 15, 2021

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

Litter can spoil a scenic view or turn a roadside into an unattractive sight. Multiple readers wanted to know about programs aimed at cleaning up the mess.

In Salisbury, city staff are reactive to calls and conduct cleanups based on staff availability, said Communications Director Linda McElroy. In downtown and parks, however, cleanups happen daily.

A new program from the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department involves picking up litter once per week on Thursdays. So, far, the program has picked up litter six times at the city’s 13 parks, two recreation centers and the Fred M. Evans Pool.

Since just the start of the year, city staff have collected enough trash to fill 28 large trash cans (the kind people roll out to the curb for regular pickup). That number doesn’t include what’s been collected in downtown, in parks or as part of the Parks and Recreation Department’s program.

The city of Salisbury also runs a street sweeper every week. It collected 33 tons of debris from the roadway last year, including an estimated 25 pounds of copper, 29 pounds of lead and 142 pounds of zinc. A collecting device installed in a creek near downtown collected 50 large trash cans worth of litter last year.

As part of an annual program, the Salisbury Community Appearance Committee and Housing Advocacy Commission host a Spring Clean Day.

County government, meanwhile, created a program that targets public roadways and uses staff as well as adult and juvenile inmates to clean up litter 40 hours per week, said Environmental Management Director Caleb Sinclair. Cleanups through the county’s program are funded through the landfill and do not require taxpayer funds.

Last year, the county collected more than 240,000 pounds, or 120 tons, through the program. It averages about 4,600 pounds, or 2.3 tons, per week.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has an Environmental Crimes Unit Program, which is also funded through the landfill, to address illegal dumping and other waste-related crimes and code violations.

“When any county staff or citizen reports incidents of illegal dumping, the Environmental Crimes Unit responds to investigate,” Sinclair said. “Citations may be issued as result of these investigations. Citations may also be written for those caught in the act of littering.”

The state has a number of programs to help with litter cleanup, including Adopt-A-Highway, Litter Sweep, Sponsor-A-Highway and Swat-A-Litterbug. North Carolinians can also show their support for anti-litter efforts by getting a speciality license plate, with $20 from each plate going to support the N.C. Department of Transportation’s litter reduction efforts.

The state’s Adopt-A-Highway Program involves more than 120,000 participants across the state. Groups or individuals adopt a highway by committing to at least four years of cleanup on a 2-mile stretch of roadway, with cleanups occurring a minimum of four times per year. The N.C. Department of Transportation installs two signs on the adopted section of highway and provides training materials. Similarly, the Sponsor-A-Highway program allows businesses, organizations and individuals to contract for litter cleanup on a section of road in return for a sign featuring a logo.

The North Carolina Litter Sweep traditionally occurs the last two weeks of April and September. It involves residents throughout the state organizing local efforts to cleanup roadways. The North Carolina Department of Transportation says maintenance crews also devote one week of their time to pick up litter and collect orange bags placed on the roadside by volunteers.

The N.C Department of Transportation’s Swat-A-Litterbug Program encourages the public to report people who litter in an effort to help make North Carolina roadways cleaner. The public can report those who litter to the department’s Litter Management Section by filling out an online form or calling NCDOT Litter Management at 1-800-331-5864.

For more information on the state’s programs, visit:

The Rowan County Environmental Management website is



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