Awards: North Carolina Mean about Clean
The Federal Highway Administration's
2003 Environmental Excellence Awards
North Carolina Mean about Clean
Due to unprecedented growth, North Carolina is finding itself facing many of the problems that
come with higher population density, rapid development, and increasing numbers of vehicles
traveling it's roads. One of these problems is litter.
Across the county, controlling and cleaning up litter is costing transportation departments
millions of dollars. In 2001 the North Carolina Department of Transportation spent close to
$10 million of maintenance funds to clean up over 12 million pounds of litter.
In hopes of helping to reduce littering at its source, the Roadside Environmental Unit's
Office of Beautification Programs sponsors a multi-faceted anti-litter program. The "NC
Mean About Clean" effort attempts to raise awareness about the cost of littering, the legal
repercussions of littering, and the environmental impact of litter.
One of the goals of this program is for the NCDOT to involve other governmental agencies,
enforcement agencies, and citizens groups in their efforts. The NCDOT cannot solve this
problem alone - they need partners to help spread their message. Three of their newest
efforts were developed with this goal in mind.
The Recycle Guys Anti-Litter Commercial, the Anti-Litter Educational Radio Campaign, and
the "Yes! Yes! We Can Stop Littering" Essay Program are each unique in their own way,
and all are partnership efforts. The Recycle Guys Anti-Litter Commercial incorporates
an anti-litter message into a current recycling campaign, "Recycle Guys". The Recycle
Guys are cartoon characters that address various components of the state's recycling
goals. Also available are trading cards with the different characters on them. These
trading cards are provided to schools and civic groups upon request. The Anti-Litter
Educational Radio Campaign features messages about the littering laws, how to report
litterbugs, and how a group or organization can "Adopt-A-Highway" and periodically collect
any litter that is on their segment of road. These radio spots are not only educating
citizens, they are offering them opportunities to be involved. Finally, the "Yes! Yes! We
Can Stop Littering" project was developed by a civic group and then brought to the NCDOT
as a proposed joint effort.
Each effort is exceptional. The Recycle Guys campaign offered an opportunity to piggyback
onto a program that is already familiar to school children and benefit on this awareness
to remind the viewer not to litter. A powerful reason behind targeting these children is
that behaviors are learned at an early age. This campaign encourages them to learn
positive behaviors as well as effect the behavior of adults.
The radio campaign recognizes that many of the citizens of our state are very frustrated
with the litter problem and want to find ways to become involved in: reporting violators,
litter prevention, and clean up. The radio spots direct them to the proper agencies to
become involved, as well as offer them an opportunity to report litterbugs.
The "Yes! Yes! We Can Stop Littering" effort enables civic club members to go into schools
and teach an anti-litter lesson and hand out anti-litter promotional items from the
NCDOT. The students are then asked to write an essay on litter. The essays are judged
and each school has a winner. This effort is even incorporated into the schools’ curriculum
through their end of year testing.
It is important to note that all of these efforts require partnerships. The Recycle Guys
is a joint effort between the NCDOT Office of Beautification Programs and the North
Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resource's Pollution Prevention and
Environmental Assistance Program. For the Anti-Litter Educational Radio Campaign, the
NC State Highway Patrol allows citizens to use *HP to report litterbugs and the Highway
Patrol operators file the report using NCDOT’s web page. This allows cell phone users
easy access to report litter violators around the clock. The Colonel of the Highway
Patrol and the Colonel of the Division of Motor Vehicles Enforcement Section co-sign
letters that are sent to offenders. Having this information taken and sent by law
enforcement agencies lends credibility to the program and highlights the legal
implications of littering. More than 5,000 letters were sent in 2001 to litter
offenders. The Yes! Yes! You Can Stop Littering Campaign was developed and is staffed
by members of the Rotary Club of Union County, who then partner with the local schools
and teachers. These local contacts are very valuable for gaining entry into the
classrooms and for offering opportunities to distribute NCDOT informational/promotional
materials directly to students.
Federal Highway Administration enhancement funds provide 80% of the funding for the
Recycle Guys Anti-Litter Commercial and the Anti-Litter Educational Radio Campaign.
NCDOT has requested federal enhancement money to expand the "Yes! Yes! You Can Stop
Littering" effort to other counties across North Carolina. As NCDOT is able to secure
funding, the state Rotary Club will expand its sponsoring effort. They have also
agreed that if there is not a Rotary Club presence in an area that is interested in
this program, NCDOT would be allowed to solicit sponsorship from other groups or
These are all new efforts with limited reach. As they expand, NCDOT hopes to be able
to see a reduction in the amount of litter that needs to be collected. Last spring the
department commissioned a survey in order to have a baseline against which they can
measure future litter reductions and the effectiveness of NCDOT’s anti-litter program.
NCDOT is already receiving positive reactions from the public on the new anti-litter
awareness efforts. They have received numerous phone calls from citizens letting them
know the individual had seen or heard the ads, and appreciated that NCDOT was trying to
raise awareness about the negative effects of littering. NCDOT has also received many
statements of thanks from citizens who are happy to have the ability to report litterbugs.
Finally, as NCDOT raises awareness of the cost to the taxpayer for litter cleanup, we
hope to discourage littering and reduce costs associated with litter removal/cleanup while
protecting the environment.