ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Trash is piling up along interstates around Albuquerque, and the state and the New Mexico Department of Transportation say its crews can’t keep up with it. Along the interstates and below overpasses, there’s more and more litter lining the roads. Now, local officials are launching campaigns to help clean up the trash along areas like I-25, I-40, and Paseo del Norte.
“Our crews are kind of in a weird spot right now because they feel defeated,” said Kimberly Gallegos with the NMDOT. “Every day that they go out there and they pick up x-amount of bags of trash and debris, the next day, there’s literally calls in the same area.”
The NMDOT says people are littering so much along the interstates, their crews are struggling to keep up. Gallegos says it has increased during the pandemic as people toss their PPE like masks, wipes, and gloves, along with other trash.
“This is kind of disgusting to talk about but we do have what they call trucker bombs. A lot of times when our guys are picking up litter on the side of the highways, there’s urine inside these bottles whether they be Gatorade or something like that,” said Gallegos. “Our guys are having to go out there and really pick up some nasty stuff, needles, debris, trash, it’s just everything. I think with the wind lately, the way it’s been, it hasn’t helped.”
The NMDOT is even bringing back a popular campaign from the ’90s to bring attention back to the problem at hand. ‘Toss no Más’ will launch later this month. “We need the public’s help. We can’t do this alone,” said Gallegos. “It’s been going on a while now where we’re just trying to keep up and it’s obviously not working.”
The City of Albuquerque says they’re noticing the build-up too — not just along interstates, but along city streets, as well. They’re hosting their own campaign, ‘One ABQ Cleanup Month‘, spread out over four weekends and four city quadrants to get residents to pick up trash.
“We have a central location where we’re going to come, we’re going to have a truck there, we’re going to have crews there, recycle bins,” said Matthew Whelan, director of CABQ’s Solid Waste Department. “We’re organizing with the neighborhood associations in those quadrants and we’re telling them, clean your neighborhood and bring it to us.”
The city is challenging participants to join in on multiple clean-ups with incentives like shirts and gift bags. The One ABQ Cleanup Month will be held at the following locations:
- Southeast: April 24 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with drop-offs at Phil Chacon Park. The registration deadline is April 21.
- Northeast: May 1 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with drop-offs at North Domingo Baca Park. The registration deadline is April 28.
- Southwest: May 8 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with drop-offs at Tower Pond Park. The registration deadline is May 5.
- Northwest: May 15 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with drop-offs at Mariposa Basin Park and Solid Waste. The registration deadline is May 12.
The NMDOT says they need crews available for emergency road hazards, rather than litter full-time. They hope metro residents will step up.
“We are working to get this cleaned up but we also need their help,” said Gallegos. “Any little bit helps. Anything is better than nothing.”
The NMDOT is recruiting volunteers for the ‘Adopt-a-Highway’ clean-up program. The commitment is only twice a year. The state spends more than $3 million in tax dollars each year, just on litter pick-up. Transportation Commissioner Adams is also requesting ‘no litter’ signs to be posted around the state.