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Car parts, diapers, road signs -- devoted participants don't shy away when it comes to picking up litter.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Christopher Schoonover carries a bag of trash next to U.S. 460 in Giles County. Last year, 5,105 groups and individuals were registered for the litter pickup program, but only about a quarter of them reported picking up trash even once.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
They’re deserving of more than a little appreciation, these fans of neat streets who stoop beside moving traffic to collect the public’s litter.
No item is too icky as they scoop up every scrap.
“Car parts, road signs, old license plates, baby bottles, baby diaper bags, dirty baby diapers,” said Melissa Campbell of recent finds.
She is chief of the Adopt-A-Highway crew at NanoSonic in Giles County, which cleans U.S. 460 in front of the business. On May 10, 17 volunteers lifted from the shin-high grass 27 bags of rubbish.
“We don’t like our stretch of highway to be dirty. We have definitely taken ownership,” said Campbell, the company’s chief financial officer.
Virginia wants to see more people foster a segment of the road system. Right now, the program is looking for new volunteers to address a decline in participation. Tens of thousands of miles of highway are available for adoption. For now, litter collection will be done on those miles by state-paid personnel.
To adopt a stretch of highway is to become its caretaker. The state provides gloves, colored vests, warning signs to alert motorists and plastic bags, and collects the bags when they are full. The adopting group agrees to make four passes on both sides of the road annually.
There’s recognition in the form of a blue sign planted at the roadside. In addition, the work is likely to bring the appreciation of neighbors.
Craig County resident Clyde Huffman lights up when Golf Company of the Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets cleans Virginia 42 near his home.
“I saw ’em a couple weeks ago,” he said. “They’ve been doing it for five or six years. I love seeing them do it.”
Kelsey Ginn, who leads the cadet group, said one unusual item turned up with the usual rubbish: an iPad. It was broken but somebody is going to try to fix it, she said.
Most volunteers are pretty sure where the trash is coming from: passing traffic.
“Open window, throw it out, close window,” said Tom King of the Floyd Amateur Radio Society, whose group collects rubbish on Virginia 8 between Floyd and Riner. “On that section of highway 8, nobody walks.”
Nobody except the radio society volunteers, who collected 19 bags the last Saturday in April.
A roadside stripped of trash engenders public appreciation, but it’s also good exercise.
Barbara Phillips is out there — daily, she said, explaining that Flint Hill Road is under a barrage of litter. The 69-year-old works the highway “just to have something to do,” she said. “Keeps my bones and everything going.”
Bob Sims of Boy Scout Troop 129 in Franklin County said his young charges pick up trash out of a sense of mission.
“The sign’s nice but that’s not really the reason we’re doing it. We’re doing it because we’re green-oriented and, really, trash along the road is not a pleasing sight ,” Sims said.
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