Has anyone actually seen people picking up trash on the side of the freeway?

ShadiRoxan and Polycarp have it right in this part of the country.

There used to be a public service spot that was a fairly high quality production all about Tennessee Trash. It had this scruffy looking dude with a sleeveless undershirt, smoking a cigar, driving in an old Corvair convertible, slinging all manner of stuff out of the car. Basically an anti-litter campaign.

I believe it may have backfired somewhat, since I saw many people emulating the ad!

Still, most main roads in TN are relatively clear. But once you get out on the side roads, it’s quite different. Not long ago I saw a refrigerator on the side of the road that must have been there for years, just lying in a ditch.

And I don’t know if it was supposed to be “lawn art” or not, but somebody had a complete toilet (tank and all) in an otherwise neat-looking yard.

But the topper, never duplicated in my memory, was the dead dog stuffed into one of those laundry pails out on the curb, waiting (I must assume) for the trash folks to pick it up. That dog was there over a week, I kid you not! I had to drive past every morning on the way to work.

I’ve run across both sets, adopt-a-highway and inmates. From what I have noticed, adopt-a-highway seems to be mostly roads that aren’t major interstates (although I have seen adopt-a-highway on, well, highways). Inmates tend to be the ones picking up trash on roads with major, high speed traffic.

I myself have been a part of adopt-a-highway with the honor society at my college.

Now while I was in Leeds, there was one bus stop that could have really used an adoption (do they do this in the UK?). The entire yard of the house it was in front of was covered in trash. It’s no wonder that no one lived there.

Har! What a great memory you’ve brought back. I can even remember the little ditty, "There ain’t no lower claaaaaaaaaaaaassssss… Than Tennesee Trash[sup]TM[/sup]!

I see those adopt a highway signs all the time. Actually, it was an adopt a highway sign that got me to thinking, Hmm, I see these signs all the time, but I never see anyone picking up trash. Maybe I have and just forgot? Or maybe there are some freaky odds going on here, and I’ve managed to miss them for a coupla decades. Go figure.


So glad somebody else here remembers that. Guess you must also remember Ed Bruce as the buckskinned spokesperson for the “Travel Tennessee” promos, or whatever it was.

(not meant as a hijack)


I’d be guessing they rarely work in prime traffic hours. Around these parts, that can be deadly. Hardly a week goes by that somebody working construction on a highway (interstates mostly) gets hit by somebody speeding right past the signs to slow down.

Both my kids 4H clubs have done it.
I’ve been the responsible adult several times.
Here in Iowa its a contract thing.
You have to promise to do it 2 times a year.
I doubt there is a penalty if you don’t.
Its a community service thing.
Some of our roads even have families that do it.
Usually its just a mile but some of the lesser used roads are longer.
My advice to anyone wanting to adopt.
Don’t pour out the pepsi containers with the yellow liquid.


There’s a homeless guy who hangs around Luv It’s Custard in Las Vegas, Nevada who picks up trash in or around the parking lot. I’ve been told he’s been doing that for years.

Frequently. Just Friday, for instance, I saw twelve young gentlemen in bright yellow jumpsuits with orange highway safety vests on walking along filling trash bags behind a Washington County Sherrif’s van which was towing the trailer carrying the water jug and Porta-John.

I smile every time I think of these previously misguided youths climbing up on that trailer to do their bio-business in the middle of the freeway median with the Sherrif guarding the door…

-Shrug- Not much different than being at a public event with 200,000 of your closest friends, and visiting one of those Port-A-Johns with a line waiting outside the door.

As for the O.P., you betcha. Both varieties. I used to spend quite a bit of time down in the Atlanta area and I saw real-life Prison Gangs. Striped overalls, and in one case, clearly chained together at the ankles, with about 10 feet of chain between each. It was appalling.

I don’t know why. They were out in the hot sun, working on cleaning up the roadside. There was a clearly marked H2O truck with guards at various points around the men, keeping an eye out. It just gave me the willies.

Up here in Yankee Country, I’ve seen folks in Orange overalls, and other groups that were clearly volunteers who were indeed performing their corporate Adopt-A-Highway good deed.

The Nevada tale is extremely sobering. The shoulder of a highway is an incredibly dangerous place. I dunno how I feel about having civillians out there, doing their good deed if it risks their lives and limbs. Tough call. But, I’ve seen both kinds of groups out there.


I see prisoners all the time picking up trash at the side of the road (and I live in Tennessee). The best one yet though was a fellow co-worker. He had to spend some time picking up trash. It just so happens he was right in front of his place of employment picking up trash. Complete with the orange vest and all. Don’t you know it got real fun when we took a poloroid of him and hung it on the board at work. Now that my dear folks was truly a Kodak moment!

All the time in NY and now in NC.

I’m in the National Honors Society at school, and trash pick-up is one of the ways we can get community service hours in. A couple months ago we covered our whole neighborhood, so I guess you could say I saw trash pickers then. ([hijack] You find all kinds of cool shit on the side of the road…my group and I found some terrifying leather apparatus in a ditch. For a while we thought it was some sort of Harley Davidson bra for the freakishly endowed, but it wound up being ancient motorcylce goggles with the lenses knocked out. Sort of a disappointment, really [/hijack]). Other than for NHS, I’ve never seen people picking up trash.

I found myself picking up trash on the side of a road once, but not because I was doing community service for an institution or Honors Society. It was because I was thirsty.

You see, I was in Michigan. (I live in Texas.) If you haven’t been to Michigan, they have this thing where soda bottles and cans cost an extra ten cents as a deposit. If you bring back said bottle or can, you get the ten cents back. It’s to keep Mighican’s roads clean, presumably.

Anyhoop, I was waiting for someone to pick me up from a job, and I had no cash. Since I had a few extra minutes, I decided to pick up soda bottles that had been recklessly cast away to the side of the road. I found ten in the matter of minutes, went to a gas station, and bought myself a Dr. Pepper. :cool:

It was quite good. And, in a small way, I felt like I really deserved that Dr. Pepper in a primal hunter/gatherer way. :smiley:

I do “adopt-a-street/highway” trash pick-up for two separate agencies, work and a civic organization. Our schedule is twonky, dependant on weather, available folks, equipment availability, etc. We shoot for once-a-month but snow, etc. can present problems.

It’s distinctly unglamourous housekeeping stuff. (Though actually lots of fun, oddly enough.) A morning takes care of it, so unless you’re right there at the time you’d never notice. Unfortunately, the litter and crap are so unbiquitious I’m not sure most folks even notice consciously when it’s gone.

As to the scheduling issues, everybody out there must be issued bags, gloves and reflective vests. Litterers aren’t polite and neither are many drivers. We’ve had volunteers nearly mowed down by road-rage idiots. Follow-up garbage trucks must be arranged to pick up the bagged trash.

We’re good elves. You might not see us (even in our reflective gear) or consciously note what we’ve done but we’ve been there.

You’re welcome.


The National Honors Society picks up trash out on country roads here. I’m not in the NHS, but my friends were, and I picked up trash with them.

I should also add, that one woman stopped and offered this one kid 20 dollars for picking up the trash. He told her that we couldn;t accept money, but she insisted, so he took it. I don’t think he kept it, though.

As I understand it here in Idaho, only prisoners (minimum security inmates, not rapists and murderers and the like) are used for picking up trash along interstate highways. Orangs signs are posted in advance of a cleanup area to warn motorists to slow down.

For highways with less traffic, civilian groups can use the Adopt-a-Highway program. They are required to watch a safety video before they are assigned a segment of highway (usually a two-mile stretch). Occasionally I’ll see them out picking up trash. If they’ve recently been out you’ll see orange garbage bags every couple of hundred feet or so alongside the road waiting to be picked up.

I have to wonder what are some of the things they have found. Maybe someone who is or has been on a roadside cleanup crew can chime in and share his/her experiences (perhaps something worthy of a new thread).

In Massachusetts, the prisoners do it.