WILMINGTON — A local chapter of Plastic Ocean Project adopted a 2-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 421 after two years of monthly volunteer cleanups.
The dedication of the roadway to POP occurred through North Carolina’s Adopt-A-Highway program. POP has committed to maintaining the designated area for the next 4 years.
POP described the strip as one of New Hanover County’s most littered highways in frequent need of cleanups due to its proximity to the county landfill.
The organization picks up plastic bottles, fast food trash and the like, as well as a high number of construction debris — metal flashing, lumber pieces, sheetrock panels, carpet rolls, and even the entire hood of a car. POP makes sure these items make it to their proper places.
“Our county’s landfill is so awesome that they actually have a place for us to put wood and metal to recycle,” POP Director Bonnie Monteleone said.
The cleanups are not just geared for aesthetic purposes; they also reduce hazards for drivers, livestock and the environment.
Elizabeth Wescott and her family own nearby farm and popular wedding venue Lizzy Lou’s Family Farm.
“Grazing animals are apt to eat trash such as plastic grocery bags that when irresponsibly discarded make their way into livestock pastures and when eaten can result in bowel blockages and unexpected death,” Wescott said. “This is a costly and emotionally taxing burden for small farms.”
POP’s monthly cleanups began in 2020, and have yielded 7,595 pounds of trash from this 2-mile spot. Through the nCino-sponsored Trees4Trash program, the cleanup crews earn one tree for every 25 pounds of trash collected. After pickup, the bags of debris are taken back to POP’s headquarters, where volunteers and student interns sort, recycle what they can and dispose of the rest.
POP’s first official Adopt-A-Highway cleanup is set for this Sunday, December 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers can drop in any time during those hours.
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