COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The sides of Columbus’ highways are covered in trash, and it’s costing Ohioans millions of dollars to clean up. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

“Litter is a particularly frustrating problem for ODOT because it is really the only problem that we fight here that is 100% preventable,” explained ODOT District Six spokesperson Brooke Ebersole. “Unlike snow and ice, unlike potholes, the litter problem in this area is 100% preventable if people would just wait to throw away their trash until they are not on the roadway anymore or if they would make sure their loads are secure.”

In the spring when Ohio Department of Transportation crews are picking up trash, that’s time and manpower taken away from other, more safety-centered projects they could be doing, such as patching potholes, Ebersole says.

“ODOT spends $4 million per year picking up trash. That money could be used to pave a 10-mile two-lane road or buy 28 new snowplow trucks,” added Ebersole via email.

But the trash cleanup is necessary because the garbage can cause bigger problems such as highway drains becoming clogged, leading to flooding on highways.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the things we pull out of those drains. We’ve pulled out pairs of pants. We’ve pulled out folding chairs[and] tires … plus all of the trash,” she said.

The amount of highway trash is also another thing that can be blamed on the pandemic. ODOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program where volunteers clean up designated sections of highway is currently suspended. Ebersole says they hope to have it up and running again soon.

To report a problem area on one of the highways ODOT maintains, email: transportation@ohio.gov.