Local environmental nonprofit tackles litter problem along U.S. 421

Over the past two years, Plastic Ocean Project (POP) has been working to clean up a portion of U.S. 421.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 11:02 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Over the past two years, Plastic Ocean Project (POP) has been working to clean up a portion of U.S. 421 that consistently requires work due to its proximity to the county landfill.

According to a release from POP, the nonprofit has now officially adopted 2 miles of U.S. 421 through the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program.

In addition to creating a hazard for drivers and blocking storm drains, litter along roadways can threaten livestock, wildlife and marine life. Creeks, streams and waterways can become polluted when litter is washed away following a storm.

“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,” explained Elizabeth Wescott, whose family owns a nearby farm. “This is a costly and emotionally taxing burden for small farms.”

POP began cleaning this stretch of U.S. 421 in 2020, and have since yielded 7,595 pounds of trash. After removing the litter from the side of the road, volunteers then sort and recycle what they can.

“In addition to the usual stuff one expects such as plastic bottles, fast food cups and wrappers, other typically collected items are construction debris like metal flashing, large pieces of lumber and panels of sheetrock,” stated Plastic Ocean Project in their release. “There have been some challenging items as well. These have included rolls of carpet padding-still in their plastic packaging, the entire hood of a car and half of a semi-truck hood.”

POP have committed to maintaining their portion of U.S. 421 for the next four years. Those who would like to volunteer, including for the upcoming cleanup on Dec. 11, please visit the Plastic Ocean Project website or the cleanup event website.