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'Would you rather us fill potholes or pick up trash?' Disposable masks scattered on I-90 draws attention to Ohio's litter problem

ODOT crews went out Wednesday to begin a two-day job of picking up disposable masks along the highway after receiving notification from 3News.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Disposable face masks littered all over I-90 West near Warren Rd at the Cleveland/Lakewood border was the backdrop to the commute Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We really don’t know what happened,” says Brent Kovacs, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 12.

Kovacs says ODOT crews went out Wednesday to begin picking up masks after receiving notification from 3News. It’s a cleaning job that will take the department two days to complete.

“We’re out there filling potholes, fixing guardrails, cleaning bridges, doing all our maintenance work, and on top of all that we have to go pick up your trash off the side of the road,” says Kovacs. “Would you rather us fill potholes or pick up trash?”

According to Kovacs, the department picks up approximately 40,000 bags of litter in District 12 a year, which equates to almost 26,000 hours of work for their team.

“When you look at the statewide litter program, that’s about $4 million that’s spent on litter pickup and litter pickup programs,” says Kovacs. “Litter is just a huge problem in Ohio.”

It’s also a preventable one.

“It really starts with you, making sure that you don’t litter,” says Kovacs.

It’s a simple message that whoever dumped those masks all over I-90 didn’t receive or chose to ignore.

Under Ohio law, litter is any trash thrown, discarded or dropped by a person onto public property, private property not owned by the individual, or into Ohio's waterways. The Ohio Revised Code prohibits littering, regardless of whether or not it was intentional. Numerous laws prohibit littering and illegal dumping.

According to the nonprofit “Keep Ohio Beautiful,” littering in the state is a serious offense punishable by fines of up to $500 and 60 days in jails.

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