trash pile of bottles

Take Your Litter Home

Fast Food is often served through car windows at the drive-through window at fast-food restaurants. Unfortunately, the packaging for that food often exits the car windows too.

Our roads and highways are littered with all kinds of trash that is tossed out of a car window. On one highway on‑ramp in Santa Rosa, a visual inventory of trash on the road included: empty fast-food bags and burger boxes, fast food soda cups with lids, a single use coffee cup, a dozen aluminum cans, dozens of cigarette butts, and random items like shoes and a single empty liquor bottle. These are all items that came out of cars!

During a trash clean-up event in Windsor, a roadway was lined with empty liquor bottles, empty nitrous oxide canisters, fast food cup lids, and lots of Styrofoam pieces, and large items that fly out of the backs of trucks. During the Windsor trash clean-up event in September, volunteers collected a rain gutter, a metal pipe, and a garden hose, all likely from the bed of an uncovered truck.

Obviously, all of this litter on our roadsides is ugly. What may not be obvious is that it can end up in our creeks with the next heavy rain. Heavy rains can carry trash from the road into storm drains or ditches that flow straight into our creeks and can even make it to the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Russian River. The trash that is carried into our streams degrades into microplastics, clogs the streams, and literally chokes the wildlife that tries to eat it.

Roadside litter is also a hazard to bicyclists and to the workers and volunteers who pick it up. Large items flying out of your truck bed are a hazard to everyone driving on the road with you.

MAKE A CHANGE – Please, NEVER toss litter out of your car. Keep your trash in your car until you reach a waste bin. ALWAYS cover your pickup truck loads and securely tie down large objects. Also, don’t drink and drive. Our creeks and river thank you, and everyone else on the road thanks you.

This article was authored by Cristina Goulart, Environmental Program Manager, of Town of Windsor, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.