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 2022, WSDOT collected and disposed of 1,400 tons of trash from state highways across Washington - roughly the weight of six blue whales. $6.6 million was spent by WSDOT on litter cleanup last year alone. 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 on ice and snow.

It's easier to skid or lose control traveling at higher speeds. Give yourself more time to stop.

Carry chains, practice installing them.

Winter conditions could mean chains are required on your route. Practice putting them on your vehicle ahead of time.

Pack your winter car kit.

Carry extra supplies like warm clothing, ice scraper and brush, jumper cables and other emergency items.