Celebrate Earth Day by keeping Virginia's roads clean

Participate in VDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway program to keep litter off roads

Litter pickup ahead sign
Litter pickup

RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is encouraging Virginians to join the effort to keep the Commonwealth’s roads clean this Earth Day.

“Litter on Virginia’s roads has a harmful impact on safety, the environment, and the economy,” said VDOT Chief of Maintenance and Operations Kevin Gregg. “Everyone has a part to play to keep trash off roadways, protect the scenic beauty of Virginia, and reduce the risk of traffic incidents caused by distractions or debris on the road.”

Litter on Virginia’s 59,451 miles of state-maintained roadways is not just an eyesore. The Commonwealth spent more than $9.3 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 to clean up more than 350,000 bags of trash from the roadways. VDOT workers are exposed to an increased risk of being struck by vehicles while removing trash along highways. Also, litter can harm the environment and pollute the waterways, contributing to the spread of disease or wildlife ingesting trash.

There are a few easy things people can do to be part of the solution:

  • Properly dispose of or recycle trash rather than throw it out the car window. Keep a bag in your car to collect trash in one place to easily dispose of it later. 
  • Secure objects in or on vehicles to prevent them from falling on the road.
  • “Adopt a highway” to volunteer cleaning a section of a public roadway.

Virginia’s Adopt-a-Highway program empowers people, organizations, and businesses to take charge of collecting litter along a section of a road. Virginia’s Adopt-a-Highway is one of the largest programs in the country, with volunteers cleaning more than 8,000 miles of state-maintained highway each year.

Volunteers commit to clean a two-mile stretch of VDOT-maintained roadway two times a year for three years. People must be at least 18 years old to adopt a roadway, and participants must be at least 10 years old and accompanied by an adult. VDOT supplies volunteers with trash bags and safety equipment and provides safety training. The agency will put up a sign recognizing the community members responsible for cleaning that part of the road after two litter pickups.

Since its inception in 1988, Adopt-a-Highway participants have removed more than 894,009 bags of litter from Virginia roadsides. In FY23, volunteers spent more than 33,919 hours removing more than 24,209 bags of litter.

“We are grateful to the thousands of people across the Commonwealth helping us reduce litter,” said Gregg. “These volunteers make a valuable contribution that produces cleaner roadsides, reduces maintenance costs funded by taxpayers, and raises awareness about the litter problem.”

For more information on VDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway program, including an interactive map showing what stretches of roadway are available for adoption, visit VDOT’s website.

Additionally, through the Beautify Virginia program, community and civic organizations, businesses, nonprofit organizations and residents can sponsor litter pickups along segments of roadways, with an approved contractor performing the work on their behalf. Anyone interested in sponsoring can learn more on VDOT's website.

Last updated: July 11, 2024

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