What’s the one thing Arizona Republicans and Democrats can agree on? Apparently, they all like to talk trash — and throw trash.
A bipartisan delegation that included Gov. Janet Napolitano, Maricopa County Supervisors Chairman Fulton Brock, Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross and Phoenix City Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten met Thursday morning to talk about a Valleywide effort to reduce highway littering by teaching residents about its costs in terms of time, money and human lives.
A recent Maricopa Association of Governments survey showed 42 percent of residents throw items out of vehicles — and nearly 30 percent of those don’t even consider it littering, said Brock, R-District 1 of Tempe, Chandler and Queen Creek.
He challenged residents to become a part of the Don’t Trash Arizona public outreach campaign to raise awareness about the Valley’s litter problem.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, young or old, rich or poor — this is your community,” Brock said.
Officials at the event, held by MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation, said freeway littering costs the Valley about $3 million and 150,000 hours of labor yearly to clean up.
Vehicles that eject large items onto freeways also can cause traffic delays and collisions, they said, which nationwide, result in 25,000 crashes and 80 deaths each year.
Napolitano spoke Thursday in front of a Phoenix lot where ADOT had piled 500 bags of litter, the equivalent of one day’s pickup efforts. Other collected items that had flown off the back of moving trucks or out of other vehicles included a pink leather love seat, a 15-foot swimming pool slide and ladder, mattresses, a real estate sign and piles of wooden planks, tires, cardboard boxes and plastic foam packaging.
“It’s not every day I get to come to a press conference to talk trash,” Napolitano said.
She urged residents to take ownership of Valley roadways and become part of the solution, rather than the problem.
“Government cannot fix this problem by itself,” Napolitano said.
MAG and ADOT also released a list of the Valley’s top 10 freeway littering “hot spots,” which encompass most of Interstate 10 throughout the Valley, plus sections of U.S. 60 in Tempe and Loop 101 in Scottsdale.
In 2006, the state ramped up its litter policing efforts, increasing the number of cleanup crews from four to 18, nearly doubling the amount of litter collected and reducing monthly litter complaints to a handful.
Still, Manross and other local leaders said conscientious motorists are the key to keeping Valley highways litter-free.
“We must not trash Arizona,” she said, adding that residents should check out the litter campaign’s Web site, www.DontTrashAZ.com.
All about litter
Top five sources of highway litter: Fast-food items 29% Glass and plastic bottles 10% Aluminum cans 7% Plastic foam 6% Cardboard 5% SOURCE: ADOT and MAG