Litter Program Budget
How long has the state's litter program been around?
The Model Litter Control Act (Chapter 70.93 RCW)
Questions and Answers
was passed in 1971 and Ecology has been involved in statewide litter programs ever since. In 1998, the
Legislature put Ecology in a greater leadership role and the agency now works with other state agencies (the
departments of Corrections, Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Parks and Recreation) and local
governments to administer litter control programs.
What does Ecology do?
One of the most visible features of our litter program has been hiring youth 14-17 years old to pick up
litter in the summer. Prior to this year, Ecology
Youth Corps (EYC)
summer program has provided an average of about 350 jobs annually to youth across the
state. The program removed approximately 1 million pounds of litter a year.
Another significant effort by Ecology began in 2002. The "Litter and it will hurt" public outreach and
education campaign consisted of media and billboard advertising, public relations, special events, and
enforcement. It has raised public awareness about the negative consequences of littering and unsecured
loads, and promoted the importance of litter prevention.
How does the program get funding?
Funding for the litter program comes from a dedicated account, the Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Model
Litter Control Account (Chapter 70.93.180
). Money is raised from a tax on industries whose products tend to contribute to the litter problem.
In the budget that began July 1, 2013 funds were transferred from this dedicated account to State Parks
to meet other state priorities. Between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2015, about $24 million has been cut
from the litter account. This is about 40% of the total litter budget.
What does the budget cut mean for the state's litter programs?
Cuts in funding will result in more litter created and less litter picked up. Some specific results of
the cuts are to:
Will there be more litter along state roadways?
- Hire 100 fewer youth this summer statewide. Hire fewer median crews during spring and fall. Crews
will be smaller and work a shorter season due to budget restrictions.
- Suspend the "Litter and it
will hurt" campaign. Suspend the toll-free hotline. Roadway signs and Ecology-hosted website
will remain, to discourage state residents from littering by providing those who observe an act of littering
a way to report it. Washington State Patrol will still enforce state litter laws. Some local governments
will continue to educate the public about the need to properly secure vehicle loads.
- Reduce local grants. Counties will still receive 20 percent of appropriated litter money, but
overall program funding is reduced. Almost all counties use funds to send correctional crews to
pick up litter on local and county roads and clean up illegal dumps.
- Reduce funding to other state agencies' litter pickup efforts.
- Reduce Ecology's program by four positions, including the litter program's statewide coordinator
Some secondary state roads or heavily trafficked roadways will not be cleaned as often, due to fewer crews
being available. Visible litter will increase in these areas. Prior to this year, Ecology funded programs
picked up 5-7 million pounds of litter and illegally dumped material annually.
We are trying to adapt to the budget shortfall and are changing strategies in litter pick-up. Ecology
Youth Corps crews will adopt new litter pickup standards in order to extend their range, leaving smaller,
less visible litter behind. The previous cleaning standard focused on picking up any litter that was the
size of a quarter or larger. Crews will now focus on picking up baseball-size or larger pieces of litter.
In the winter months (December-February), it is unsafe for any crews to be on the road due to dangerous
conditions and no crews pick up litter during this period.
Can inmate litter crews fill in the budget gap?
Correctional crews do pick up litter in most counties in the state now. This reduces some costs, but this
activity still requires public funds. Every correctional crew needs a supervisor, transportation, safety
equipment, and money to dispose of the litter. They also need to be properly trained to work in high
Why is litter a public issue?
Litter is not only ugly, it is dangerous. Lit cigarette butts tossed from vehicle windows cause roadside
fires. Unsecured loads on the highways and roads cause collisions and traffic backups. Some have even been
fatal. We have found that if we don't pick up litter, these areas become even dirtier. However people are
less inclined to be the first to litter a clean site.
What can I do to help?
With fewer government resources being devoted to clean up state highways and roadways there's a simple
solution: if you don't want to see more trash in our environment, don't throw it out there! If trash does
not leave your vehicle, it won't be an eyesore or hazard on the side of the road. Here are some other
things you can do to help:
What else can I do? I'd like to be part of the solution and help pick-up litter. Can you provide me
with some litter bags?
Be safe. Please do not go out and pick up litter along a road or highway on your own. Join an organized
volunteer program through your city or county so you can receive safety training, litter bags, and safety
equipment. Or join a group with the
Dept. of Transportation's Adopt-a-Highway program