Social media, old fashioned letters to the editor and comments by elected officials have all noted the increase in the litter along the streets and highways.

Some people even blamed the pandemic, theorizing that with restaurants closed for months and then operating at reduced capacity, many more people were ordering take out and evidently dumping the take out containers out the car window when they were through.

Others speculated that with more people at home all day and taking more walks around the neighborhood, they noticed litter that they wouldn’t have seen driving to work, especially if they ended up coming home after dark.

At the Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (GUAMPO) board meeting last week, board member Mike Fox provided some good news about litter and some facts.

GUAMPO has an advantage over other metropolitan planning organizations in the state because Fox, who is an attorney with Tuggle Duggins in Greensboro, is also the chairman of the North Carolina Board of Transportation. 

At the GUAMPO meeting, Fox, in his report on what the state board was doing, included that because of financial difficulties at the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the litter cleanup program had been cut. 

He said, “A lot of areas around the state had suffered from our lack of funding to clean up the roadsides.”

But he said at the most recent NC Board of Transportation meeting, with the financial situation now on better terms, $30 million had been specifically allocated for the statewide litter program, and he said, “It’s already taking place but you’ll see a lot more focus on that going forward.”

Cutting the funding for the statewide litter program explains why people have been seeing more litter along the highways and also that it has nothing to do with the pandemic, because NCDOT’s financial difficulties became evident back when nobody had ever heard the term COVID-19.

So that part of the puzzle is solved.  If you don’t have people picking up litter, you have more trash along the roads.  But it doesn’t explain all the other complaints about litter on city streets.