Don't Mess with Texas Leads to Reductions in Roadside Trash


AUSTIN — Besides being one of the state’s most popular slogans, Don’t mess with Texas® also is proving to be effective as an anti-littering message. Established by the Texas Department of Transportation in 1986, Don’t mess with Texas® has helped reduce visible litter by 34 percent on TxDOT-maintained roadways between 2009 and 2013, according to TxDOT’s 2013 Texas Litter Survey.

“We are extremely pleased that Texas drivers are heeding the Don’t mess with Texas message and properly disposing of their litter as opposed to tossing it out of their vehicles,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “Roadside trash is unsightly, entirely unnecessary and — in the case of cigarette butts — can be deadly and dangerous. A decrease in roadside litter is certainly welcome news and speaks well of Texas drivers and the effectiveness of the Don’t mess with Texas campaign.”

Considering an additional 1.1 million drivers have taken to Texas roadways during the survey period of 2009-2013, the 34-percent reduction in visible litter is even more impressive. According to the survey, the leading type of visible roadside litter was tire and rubber debris, followed by miscellaneous paper, plastic and beverage containers.

The survey also revealed cigarette butts continue to comprise the largest portion of total litter at 31 percent. That translates to 500 million cigarette butts being tossed onto Texas roadways each year, creating the potential for devastating wildfires due to the state’s recurring drought conditions.

In 2013, researchers project nearly 1.5 billion items will be littered onto Texas roadways. Nearly two-thirds of litter is considered “micro litter,” or items less than 2 inches in size.

In 2012, TxDOT spent $47 million on litter pick-up. Research shows that cities, counties, institutions and businesses likely spend even more dealing with litter.

Texas is home to more than 25 million people, and an estimated 1,000 people move into the state every day, many of whom may not realize that littering is against state law. Through iconic Texas celebrities and painted trashcans, TxDOT’s Don’t mess with Texas® campaign continues to teach drivers how to do their part to keep our state clean. Properly inflating and maintaining tires can prevent roadside blowouts and their resulting debris. Throwing trash into trashcans or vehicle litterbags, and keeping cigarette butts in car ashtrays, are simple steps that can have significant impacts on the cleanliness of Texas roads.

Drivers also should know that littering can be costly. Litterers can be fined up to $500 for the first offense, and repeat offenders can face fines up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.

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