Highway litter is becoming more of a problem as North Carolinians and tourists travel the state’s roadways, resulting in public complaints and legislative action. Considering Carteret County’s dependence on tourism and the sensitivity of our coastal environment, this is an issue that needs an immediate and long term solution.

As North Carolinians, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, have quarantined over the past year reducing the number of miles traveled on the state’s highways for either work or play, it is surprising to see the growing amount of litter and trash showing up on the state’s roadways. But the problem exists which has resulted in numerous letters to the editor and a discussion topic for the county commissioners.

The problem is so apparent that N.C. House Republican Majority Leader, John Bell, Goldsboro, introduced legislation in late February, one of the earliest bills offered in the new session, to address this issue. House Bill 100 provides funding to local sheriff’s offices to pay for off-duty deputies to pick-up roadway trash, raises fines upwards to $4,000 and calls for an anti-littering campaign.

While it is appropriate, albeit disappointing, to address the litter scarring our highway vistas, we should also address the cultural attitude of people who litter. If the public were to consider the trash on the highways as a personal affront there would be less litter and less need to waste valuable funds to pick up the litter.

Anyone who has ever visited The Netherlands will recall that the country is very clean. There are examples of other countries, but the Dutch stand out. They are fastidious, practically to an obsession. Their homes are noted for their order and cleanliness and it is seldom that trash is seen anywhere in the cities. What litter is found has been left by visitors not by natives - it’s not in their DNA and so they just don’t litter.

We should take a cue from The Netherlands and other countries that pride themselves in their environment and promote a similar cultural attitude here.

A good place to start on this long term solution is to promote anti-littering messaging in our schools and at the same time promote pride in our communities and our state. In this era of ‘wokeness’ where our schools are required to introduce a curriculum about ethnic and cultural pride, it is appropriate to include community pride and personal responsibility. This effort will also appeal to our environmental concerns as well.

Rep. Bell’s initiative and the numerous letters to the editor are appreciated, but they are addressing the symptom, not the problem. The solution to that problem begins with promoting a culture of community pride and self-responsibility and the best place to start is in our schools.

(18) comments


Here we go again comparing the United States to another country. Here is a simple solution, you catch somebody littering and you make THEM clean up the trash on side of the road. What ever happened to using inmates to pick up roadside trash? Why not use those in the Beaufort Detention Center? I’m sure the funding that Rep. Bell is recommending could be better used to help those who have been hit hard during this pandemic or feeding those who are living on the streets because of lack of work, or taking care of our homeless veterans. As far as anti littering messages, That’s going to be about as effective as anti bullying, anti drugs, etc. I agree that self discipline is the answer but not everybody will agree with it. It’s not just the locals who litter but the very tourist that this county has come to rely on is just as bad if not worse when it comes to littering, just look at the beach after a bunch of tourist have been there. Face it, roadway litter is just gonna happen whether it is intentional or something flies out the back of a truck.


Enforcement of the law and jail time for repeaters


Homeless veterans can get a job like everyone else.


The good editor is right on deploring the litter that not only is seen along our highways, but on our city streets as well. There are numerous examples in N.C. itself where city residents take pride in keeping their hometown clean, neat and free of litter. Morehead City has been lax in this area for many years. Pleas to the Town Council over the years have been met with deaf ears. True that schools could go a long way in raising awareness of the situation, though some among us would consider teaching neatness as something other than the ABCs, it being a social issue. In addition of getting our children on board, an aggressive campaign, a sustained program ,by our Town Council, with the support of this newspaper, our BBB, and its members, can and will go a long way to solving the problem. And I might add, with little taxpayer money involved. Just a matter of will.


Parents who litter have children who litter.

Perhaps concerned citizens should look into the adopt a highway program. Paying off duty deputies, nor convicts on the side of the road is cost effective. Driving down Hibbs road near the transfer station is a real eye opener. Perhaps waste industries employees should be tasked with 1/4 mile either side of the entrance?


Maybe all Carteret County emplyees from top to bottom should designate one work day per month and go out and pickup this litter. I think it would encourage them to enforce litter laws already in effect.


HOLD UP THERE SMOKE, WOULD SOMEONE LIKE TO TELL ME EXACTLY WHERE ALL THE FEEL GOOD GROUPS POSING AS CONCERNED CITIZEN'S IN THEIR NON PROFIT STATUS RIGHT HERE IN CARTERET COUNTY ARE? Heck, it was just a week ago, the river watchers were out there , well, 2-3 of them. See, this is a problem with a never ending solution , and you all simply need to accept it. So, every year a patron has a bad day, and complains as if the sky is falling, and articles are written, and calls to arms are signaled, horns blare loudly, then after about 2 weeks, we hear crickets. If you happen to own a ditch in front of your land, guess what, yes , there may very well be some loose debris in it on occasion. Pick it up, and move on. (and tell the save the world types to get out of you way of progress, it will kill 2 birds with one stone)

David Collins

How about having the people we already pay to do the clean up job do the clean up job .

How about having law enforcement enforce the litter laws . These work trucks , HVAC and Plumbing seem to be the worst , get ticketed for failure to secure the load . A few of those might go a long way . Actually the Waste Industries and others that collect around our neighborhoods do contribute to quite a bit of the mess . Driving about with half full hoppers exposed and all that . Have called the number on the truck but to no avail . Same thing for the county .


There is no position in a town, or county gov in this area who is 'paid' to do this at all, but, i think you know this? (ie: i may be wrong, but, please list the title?) On tickets, well, here's a thought, drive down the road in question 20 times, and see how many times a police officer, etc passes ya on the road, and there ya go. (ie: the police are not going to place a guard shack on a road, sorry, but , i think we all know that too). WHERE ARE ALL THESE NON PROFIT GROUPS LIVING HERE IN CARTERET COUNTY , SCREAMING FOR JUSTICE AND SALVATION FOR THE WORLD NOW? [yawn]

David Collins

Really ? Who or what entity has been doing the cleanup all these years ? In the past I have seen the yellow trucks , blinkers flashing and cones along the road , with work crews doing just that . Was I daydreaming ?


Its been contracted out with taxpayer funds throughout the entire county. You may see small in TOWN attempts from a few places, however, from the prison, to waste industries , contracts have been given for several years now, ie: not alot of locals would accept this position. Each town proper has some people for possibly limbs, or furniture, etc, mostly 'residential' , but its a gone trade. I know, from beaufort down to cedar island, even though they share a zip, or the name beaufort , they, the residents are responsible for all their waste, period. These rules are mostly focused on 'PROPER' , in the actual town's.


States with bottle deposit laws are always cleaner than states without those laws....


Considering some of the roads around here. If you find tourists here in winter, they are lost. The amount of trash I see is from locals not covering their loads.

Big Fat Drunk Republican

Has more to do with Covid.

High school clubs


Civics groups

Local organizers

Adopt a highway program

Even court appointed community service

And many other volunteers have not been able to organize, group up as effectively as in the past.

At this point in our society, littering is about as common as it gets. This includes cigarettes!

I mean, I mean who thinks it okay to dump trash out anywhere other than designated trash disposal areas, not just roadways?

sick and tired

Y'all keep it up! Complaining about all this road trash and they will form a committee, you know something catchy like Keep Carteret County Clean. They will meet and meet, and of course the best solution will obviously be to add a "fee" which sounds so much better than tax, to do absolutely NOTHING about picking up this trash on the road. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Carteret Native 01

Well, the next thing we're going to hear is that we need free medical care like the Netherlands (does the author know what Holland is?) ? And that we need electrical vehicles like the Dutch to slow global warming? And that we ride bicycles to reduce emissions? (The Dutch are the leading proponents of biking in the world?) And that we be tolerant and kind and considerate and open-minded like the Dutch? No way. Most citizens of Carteret County would rather keep the roadside trash than be civilized like the Dutch. What a weird editorial. Carteret County could hardly be less like the Dutch and litter doesn't seem to figure much in the coming crises (sea level rise, increasing hurricane severity, lack of quality medical care and the ability to pay for it, etc) . Good luck litter bugs.


Think of littered roads as a reflection of our society. Because they are. There are solutions to end it, but I'm sure those who litter, have faith in their conviction and right to do it.


Well folks, I’ve lived here in EI for 24 yrs now. I moved down from Vermont. Ok, yes not many people in Vermont, true, but they had laws that started 45 yrs ago to stop littering. First, trash cans at rest areas maintained by state workers. Bottle and Can laws, bring cans & bottles in and get money back. So, people actually go out looking for them. Education from kindergarten thru college teaching why recycling is so important. We can do this here . I know you all think I live in a dream world, but here is another idea. Fast food and convenience stores charge a fee to taking the soda container out , just like the cans and bottles. Bring it back inside and get money back. It could be a machine that takes containers and give you back money. Of course, if people find these things on the street, they can get the money, just one idea. Biodegradable containers that break down quickly and on and on. Teach you children not to throw these item out of the vehicles. Yes education works

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