AAH Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find quick answers to common questions regarding the Adopt-A-Highway Program.

How Does Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) Help? 

The North Carolina AAH program saves taxpayers approximately $4 million annually in roadside cleanup costs. It is one of the largest anti-litter programs in the nation, representing approximately 6,000 groups that include around 125,000 volunteers statewide. These volunteers have adopted about 12,000 miles of state-maintained roadsides.

How Does It Work? 

There are 59 local AAH Coordinators statewide who oversee the program in their counties. When a group adopts a highway, the local coordinator works with volunteers to select an available section of state-maintained highway. Each adopted section of highway is approximately two miles long. Volunteer groups sign agreements with the NCDOT to remove litter from their adopted sections of roadsides a minimum of four times each year. Some roads that are traveled more heavily may require additional pickups.

The NCDOT also provides safety training, safety vests, orange litterbags, blue recycling bags and gloves. In addition, the NCDOT removes the trash-filled bags from roadsides following a pickup.

A highway is adopted for a period of four years. The adopting group may keep its adopted section of highway indefinitely if the agreement is renewed every four years and litter is collected at least four times each year or more often if necessary. An agreement may be canceled upon 30 days written notice to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Under a special provision in the 1995 budget bill, the General Assembly gave the NCDOT authority to allow AAH groups permission to use contract services to clean their adopted sections of highway. Boy Scouts, high school clubs, temporary agencies, Employment Security Commissions, welfare recipients and parolees are great sources for hire. In some instances, it may even be tax deductible. Please check with your accountant.

Who Should Participate? 

Many types of groups participate in the AAH program including school, civic, business, religious, professional and social groups. Individuals and families adopt some sections of highways.

The NCDOT reserves the right to deny an application to adopt a section of highway when the adoption may create a safety hazard for a NCDOT employee or the public, jeopardize the AAH program or be counterproductive to its purpose.

How Do I Join? 
How Do I Stay Safe? 

Before collecting litter for the first time, all volunteers must receive adequate safety training. Local AAH Coordinators provide a safety video that every group member must view before participating in a cleanup. The AAH Safety Video Clip is also viewable on-line. Click here to view. The NCDOT has established these rules to help ensure the safety of everyone participating in the AAH program:

Age Restrictions: Volunteers must be at least 12 years of age. Those between the ages of 12 and 17 must be supervised adequately by adults who are 21 years of age or older and submit a Youth Participation Release Form signed by a parent or guardian.

Proper clothing and equipment: During cleanups, all volunteers must wear orange AAH safety vests provided by the NCDOT. Volunteers also should wear heavy work gloves, substantial shoes or boots and brightly colored clothing that covers the arms and legs. Volunteers should never wear or bring along items that could distract motorists or impair a driver's or volunteer's vision or hearing.

Safety procedures: Volunteers must work facing oncoming traffic, keep off the roadway and stay at least five feet away from the edge of the road surface. Cleanup groups should work only along one side of the road at a time. Litter pickups must be scheduled for daylight hours and must be discontinued during inclement weather.

Volunteers should avoid overexertion, watch their footing and stay clear of mowing operations, construction and maintenance work. Watch for snakes, stinging insects and poisonous plants. Use "Search" at NC Museum of Natural Sciences web site.

To avoid injuries from broken and jagged objects, trash bags should not be overfilled or compacted.

Hazardous objects: Volunteers never should pick up discarded syringes, needles or other hazardous objects. When these items are encountered, contact the local AAH Coordinator who will arrange safe removal of the material.

Parking: Vehicles must be parked clear of the roadway and on the same side of the road where volunteers are working. Whenever possible, group members should carpool to the cleanup site to reduce the number of vehicles parked along the road.

How Do I Recycle? 

The NCDOT strongly encourages AAH volunteers to recycle trash collected during cleanups. Blue bags are provided to help groups keep recyclables separate from other litter picked up. Currently both aluminum cans and rigid plastic bottles are not allowed to be discarded in landfills and must be recycled (General Statute 130A-309.10 (subsections f through l)). For the facts about recycling, click here.

Groups can obtain information about how, what and where to recycle from their local AAH Coordinators. After a pickup, volunteers should take all recyclable items to a recycling station. The group may use any money obtained from items recycled.

How Do I Submit A Pickup Report? 

Submitting a pickup report can be done in the following ways:

  1. Use the online report form provided at this site: AAH Pickup Report
  2. To report online, you will need to know the:
     a) County number and contract number,
     b) Date of litter picked up,
     c) Number of people picking up,
     d) Length of time it took to complete the pickup, and
     e) Quantity of bags of metal, glass, plastic and other trash were collected.
How Do I Have Trash-Filled Orange Bags Picked Up? 

As soon as possible after a pickup, report your pickup online and ask DOT to pick up your orange bags. If you are not able to use the online process, please call your local AAH Coordinator to report the details of your pickup, and your local NCDOT maintenance department to request pickup of your orange bags. The AAH coordinator will enter your pickup report in the program's database and NCDOT's maintenance crew will pick up the bags from the roadside.

What Wording May Be On AAH Signs? 

The NCDOT posts two signs, one at each end of the adopted section, with a group's name to acknowledge the group that has taken responsibility for cleaning the road. The Federal Highway Administration allows only the name of an organization, business or individual on AAH signs. Other wording, such as logos, slogans, messages, dates, telephone numbers, Internet addresses, etc., is prohibited by Federal Highway Administration guidelines.

How Can I Use The Adopt-A-Highway Program As A Fund Raiser? 

Fund-raising activities are permitted within the NCDOT Highway Beautification Program. Many types of groups participate in these fund raisers, including school, civic, religious, professional and social groups. Individuals within the groups could gather monetary pledges per quarter mile of highway that is cleaned. For each quarter section that the participant picked up trash, his/her organization could collect the pledged money.

All funds collected from the trash pickup would be solely the property of the organization participating in the fund raiser. No portion of the profits would be claimed by the state. We hope these programs will help groups raise much needed funds while helping to keep North Carolina roadsides clean and green! Call 1-(800)-331-5864 for more information.

What Are Some Important Adopt-A-Highway Tips To Remember? 
  • Watch the safety video before your first pickup
  • Wear safety vests and gloves (supplied by NCDOT)
  • Review safety rules before each pickup
  • Bundle the orange bags together and place them farther back from the road. (This makes picking up the bags safer and easier for NCDOT employees.)
  • Take blue bags to your local recycling center
  • Call the toll-free Hotline (1-800-628-4394) to report your completed pickup and notify your local NCDOT maintenance yard to collect your trash-filled bags from the roadside. This phone system is currently out of service. Please call 1-800-331-5864.
  • Call your local AAH coordinator when you have any questions about the AAH program.

Submit questions about the Adopt-A-Highway Program or this website by calling 800-331-5864 (NC only).

Direct questions about the Adopt-A-Highway Program or this web site to the NCDOT Office of Beautification, 1540 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1540; Phone: 1-800-331-5864 (NC only) or 919-707-2970.