(April 23, 2013) – As enthusiasts celebrate environmental stewardship nationwide as part of Earth Week celebrations, the State Highway Administration (SHA) reminds everyone to continue to keep Maryland litter-free.  Not only is litter on the highways unsightly; it blows into forests, streams and rivers and has caused significant damage to the Chesapeake Bay and drinking water supplies.  Litter also harms wildlife, birds and fish.  SHA has two partnership programs that allow community organizations and businesses to collaborate in litter removal – the Adopt-A-Highway Program, for volunteers to pick up litter and the Sponsor-A-Highway Program, for groups to pay for litter removal. 
“By partnering with the community to reduce litter along roads, more resources are available to protect the environment in other ways,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters.  “Not only does it help maintain the beauty of Maryland, but clear roads contribute to keeping roads safe for travelers, promoting tourism and supporting economic development.  Each of us has a role in keeping Maryland roads free of litter, so whether traveling as a pedestrian, cyclist or driver, placing trash in its proper place is an easy way to support the environment.”
Attractive highways create a positive image that enhances Marylanders’ quality of life and supports state and local economic development efforts. The removal of litter and trash from state highways is therefore one of several important ways in which SHA works to accomplish its mission of providing a safe, well-maintained and attractive highway system that enhances Maryland’s communities, economy and environment.           
Founded in 1989, the program allows community organizations to adopt a one mile segment of State secondary routes and remove litter. Known as a great community service activity, Maryland currently has 323 groups statewide that are committed to litter removal.  A Boy Scout Troop in Severna Park, Anne Arundel County performed the first litter pickup.  To date, the program has saved $3.5 million that has been redirected to other critical activities.  In addition, a total of 238,173 bags of litter were reported by the groups, along with furniture, tires and other large debris.  Groups receive a sign with their name displayed along their adopted route.
Started as a pilot program in 2005, the Sponsor-A-Highway Program (SAH) allows area businesses to sponsor litter removal along Maryland’s primary highways, such as interstates and secondary routes. To date, 128 sponsors are participating in the program along sections of interstate and secondary routes statewide, and have saved the State nearly $3 million in litter removal costs.  The SAH Program is a unique opportunity for businesses to serve area communities.  Sponsoring groups, such as corporations, offices or local businesses, may contract with a SHA pre-approved maintenance provider to pick up litter along a section of highway on their behalf.  SAH participants are recognized with a sign with their logo.