Illinois taxpayers spent $6M to clean up highway litter in 2020

Before you toss trash out the car window while cruising down an Illinois highway, think of this: Taxpayers pay $6 million a year to clean it up.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says proper disposal of waste saves in other ways too.

The $6.1 million IDOT spent in 2020 to pick up litter could pay for resurfacing 30 miles of road or 40 maintenance trucks that could double as snowplows.

Snowmelt reveals a mess 2 years after Milwaukee littering fine increase

With the arrival of spring, IDOT officials are reminding drivers to be on the lookout for crews picking up litter and asking the public to do its part by properly disposing trash and saving taxpayers millions of dollars a year in unnecessary costs.

"While IDOT is committed to maintaining a positive impression of Illinois by having our maintenance teams collect litter from our roadsides, we need your help," said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. "If the warmer temperatures make you tempted to toss that food wrapper or pop can out your car window, please don’t. Trash is more than just an eyesore. It has real, negative impacts on both the environment and our communities."

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IDOT officials offered the following facts about litter in a news release encouraging public participation in solving this problem:

  • Items tossed onto the road cause distractions, crashes and even hurt people. They also put workers who have to pick them up later at risk.
  • Littering is illegal, subject to a fine of up to $1,500. If convicted of littering on a highway, the violator may, in addition to other penalties, be required to maintain litter control for 30 days over a portion of that highway as well.
  • Litter kills plants and animals.
  • It’s unsightly – no one likes to live where there’s litter.
  • Littering is a problem that’s easily controlled. Use a trash can instead.
  • Remember: Think before you throw!

The release noted the IDOT's "Adopt-A-Highway" program was halted in 2020 due to COVID-19 -- resuming in 2021.

In Milwaukee in 2019, the littering fine increased from $50 to $200.