Trash along Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway highlights growing litter problem in Arizona

Residents near the new Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway are upset about what they’re seeing along the road – a lot of trash – and it's said to be a growing issue in Arizona.

In response, they’re being proactive in fighting back against litterbugs.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) says littering isn’t just a problem in south Phoenix, it’s a growing problem statewide. Officials say they’re picking up tons, literally, of trash, and it’s gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

You may not see the trash on the road as you’re driving, but when you stop and look around – it’s everywhere. Residents say they won’t put up with it any longer.

"This is a new interstate. It’s been open only two years and lately, it seems all the side areas of the 202, especially between Lower Buckeye and Dobbins Road has just been trashed. It’s just frustrating to see this new interstate looking very trashy," said James Beasley, a Laveen resident.

Doug Nick with ADOT puts into perspective just how much trash is picked up each month.

"Every month on the South Mountain Freeway alone, we pick up about 60 cubic yards of litter and debris, and another 10 cubic yards of metallic debris. So that’s a lot," Nick said.

That equals about 60 to 80 tons of debris every month.

ADOT crews and contractors maintain the freeways, but it also counts on volunteers and inmate crews. However, COVID-19 restrictions prevented those groups from doing the job – but now they are just starting to pick up again.

"This is a matter of not opening your window," Nick said. "It’s almost entirely preventable and we want people to be aware of that."

Beasley, the Laveen resident, says we should treat the highway like our own homes.

"I mean if you have trash, think about someone driving by your house and throwing trash in your front yard. Just because it’s not our house, it's still where we live. Be respectful, and don’t expect someone to clean up your mess," he said.

Those who are caught littering could face a $500 fine.

ADOT says if you see it happening and can safely take a photo or video of the car's license plate number, you can submit that to ADOT and local law enforcement.

Report littering online at, or call 877-354-8837.

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