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Litter Bugs Are Costing Taxpayers Millions To Clean State Roads On Long Island

JERICHO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Friday was Earth Day, but that's not why crews were out in force cleaning up the roadways on Long Island.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the two-week effort was spurred by a spike in littering throughout the winter.

A famous 1971 ad campaign by the group "Keep America Beautiful" helped reform a generation of litterbugs. It featured dramatic scenes of how litter was ruining the environment.

But 45 years later, some were wondering if it's time to re-educate.

"People are still throwing trash out indiscriminately. I think it's disgusting," one person said.

Officials said the litter piling up on Long Island roads is worse than it's been in years. The New York State Department of Transportation's Regional Director thinks it's because more people were out in the mild winter.

"We are noticing a lot more litter this year. We think it's due to increased economic activity because winter ended early," Joseph Brown explained.

For two weeks DOT crews were out on the LIE and parkways hoping the spring clean up will remind drivers who's paying for the work.

It costs $2.5-million tax dollars per year to clean Long Island state roads, above and beyond the private money from sponsor a highway programs.

"We want people to have that sense of ownership. We have gone to effort to keep the roads clean," Brown said.

The same crews fill pot holes and plow snow, so manpower is limited.

Nassau County collects nearly 300 bags of litter a month. The State DOT said it's topped 10 tons in the past week.

Robert Weltner, the director of Operation SPLASH, said road litter ends up in waterways and kills marine life.

"Everyone thinks it's going to go down the storm drain, and goes to some magic place. That magic place is the bay or the Long Island Sound if you're on the North Shore," Weltner said.

DOT officials said Long Island roads have the highest traffic volume in the state with a million cars a day. Not everyone is littering, but those who do are likely repeat offenders as crews have reported finding the same type of discarded cups in the same place every day.

Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit group, said people under 30 are most prone to litter. The State DOT said each Long Island state road gets at least one clean-up per month.

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