Litter on state highways

Dealing with litter is a costly issue on Washington roads. We address it through litter collection programs and the Adopt-a-Highway program. Littering is illegal under Washington state law.

The problem with litter

In 2023, WSDOT collected and disposed of 2,380 tons of trash from state highways across Washington - roughly the weight of our Tillikum state ferry. Together, WSDOT and the Department of Ecology spend more $12 million annually on litter pickup and removal activities statewide. Yet despite these efforts and funds, crews can still only pick up a small fraction of what ends up on the ground. That means preventing litter is essential.

Addressing the problem requires partnerships with many agencies and organizations – including the traveling public who also have an important role to play by stopping litter from reaching roadways in the first place.

Cost of litter control for state highways

WSDOT and the Department of Ecology, the state's litter funded agency, spend a combined $12 million annually to pick up and dispose of litter. WSDOT's primary responsibilities include: 

  • Pick up and disposal of litter bags.
  • Pick up and disposal of large debris, such as furniture, tires and dead animals.
  • Payments to the Department of Corrections crews for litter pick up.
  • Administration of the Adopt-a-Highway program.

The Washington State Patrol issues fines to people who litter. Littering, illegal dumping, and driving with an unsecured vehicle load is punishable under Washington state law.

The Department of Ecology conducts litter studies, hires and maintains adult and youth litter crews and leads public education campaigns on litter prevention.

Washington State laws on litter issues

The following sections of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) address litter on state highways:

  • RCW 70.93 Waste Reduction, recycling, and model litter control act.
  • RCW 47.40.100 State Adopt-A-Highway program.
  • RCW 46.61.655 Secure your load rules for drivers.

Slow down – lives are on the line. 

In 2023, speeding continued to be a top reason for work zone crashes.

Even one life lost is too many.

Fatal work zone crashes doubled in 2023 - Washington had 10 fatal work zone crashes on state roads.

It's in EVERYONE’S best interest.

95% of people hurt in work zones are drivers, their passengers or passing pedestrians, not just our road crews.