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Wind, unsecured trash bring more litter along Interstate 25 in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A common perception is that much of the litter that accumulates along I-25 in Colorado Springs comes from people who toss it from their vehicles as they drive by.

But that's hardly the case.

Michelle Peulen, a spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said that some of the litter comes from nearby property owners who don't properly secure trash bags or containers. Other litter comes from trash and garbage trucks that haul unsecured debris on the way to a dumpsite or landfill.

That, combined with recent windy weather, can quickly result in accumulations of wind-blown trash along the highway.

"We ask that everyone secure their trash appropriately to help alleviate this problem," Peulen said. "When we have [strong] winds, we see an increase in trash and debris on the roadways."

CDOT hires a contractor, the Center for Employment Opportunities, to remove trash along I-25. The CEO hires recently-released jail and prison inmates to help them transition back into the workplace.

The CEO has a crew in Colorado Springs and another in Pueblo. Because of COVID-19 regulations, the crew size has decreased from seven to five. Crews work five days a week.

CDOT finances crews through donations made by businesses as part of the agency's "Sponsor a Highway" program. Civic groups can also volunteer to pick up trash along highways other than I-25, in CDOT's "Sponsor a Highway" program.

Although CDOT workers primarily focus on general highway safety, they also will stop to gather larger pieces of trash or debris along I-25.

"It accumulates quickly," said Baz Nixon, a crew supervisor. "Sometimes it piles back up a day after we clean it, sometimes while we're on our lunch break. I-25 near downtown (Colorado Springs) is the worst area because the wind blows trash against the sound walls and it stays there."

Peulen said the amount of trash along the highway continues to increase as the city grows.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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