Killeen and Copperas Cove residents will take part in the state’s largest litter education and clean up Saturday.
The Don’t Mess with Texas Trash Off is the largest one-day event in the state, said Craig Good, a board member of Keep Killeen Beautiful.
“(The Trash Off) began in 1986 as a call to action to refrain from littering on that particular day,” said Cathie Gail, executive director of Keep Texas Beautiful. “Now we have hundreds and hundreds of communities across the state that participate in thousands of events.”
The event isn’t just about collecting trash from roadways; it also promotes litter education.
“It really teaches the youth on why not to litter ... because you see the results right away,” Gail said.
Silvia Rhoads, executive director of Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful, said participating residents get first-hand experience seeing what people are littering and how much trash is being tossed out car windows, she said.
Another benefit is the cost savings of not having to pay state employees or contractors to clean up the roadways, said Ken Roberts, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.
“The cost savings to the taxpayer is significant because of the participation of our volunteers,” he said.
Last year, more than 87,000 volunteers participated in 2,017 events, Gail said.
In TxDOT’s Waco district, there were about 8,000 volunteers in last year’s trash off, including about a third of the area’s 229 adopt-a-highway groups, Roberts said.
Keep Killeen Beautiful organized more than 450 volunteers who gathered more than 6,500 pounds of trash while Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful had about 80 residents collect 480 pounds of trash last year. Both groups are hoping for larger turnouts this year.
“Our goal is to increase the volunteers of Keep Killeen Beautiful,” Good said. “But it also is a goal to promote awareness of our environment and to educate everyone in that area.”
Cove’s group is hoping to break 100 volunteers this year, Rhoads said.
While the trash off is a one-day event, TxDOT hopes it encourages more adopt-a-highway members to clean roads all year, Roberts said.
“It still comes back to pride. Don’t Mess with Texas is about litter reduction, litter education, but it is also about pride and the natural beauty of the state,” he said.