There's less of a reason for outsiders to look at New Jersey as a trashy state.

Between 2004 and 2017, according to the most recent update from the New Jersey Clean Communities Council, the state experienced a 53% drop in litter on streets and highways.

Reduction in litter was registered in all 21 counties, at 93% of the sites monitored during both '04 and '17.

"That's really quite amazing, considering we all know that there will always be litter on highways and roadways and beaches," NJCCC Executive Director Sandy Huber told New Jersey 101.5.

Huber said it's hard to measure whether motorists and residents are actually littering less. But the significant change can largely be credited to effective litter abatement programs on the local, county, and state levels.

The council administers the Adopt-a-Highway program in partnership with the state Department of Transportation. Through the program, businesses or community groups volunteer to clean a portion of a state highway.

Steve Schapiro, a DOT spokesman, said highway crews are out and about daily, performing a number of tasks including litter pickup.

"I think this report really shows that our efforts have been paying off," Schapiro said. "We've got many programs that help with cleaning up litter and debris."

The DOT also provides the funding for prison inmate crews to clear interstate and major state roads. About 100 inmates are split among 10 crews.

In July 2018, it was reported the DOT's efforts have picked up 3.5 to five tons of litter annually.

"Our guys are out there doing their job, but the job is made a lot easier when all of us that are driving are keeping our trash in our cars, and throwing it away when we get to where we're going," Schapiro said.

The Clean Communities Council, which began as an advisory committee to the state Department Environmental Protection, oversees the implementation of litter abatement programs in more than 550 municipalities and all 21 counties. These entities, which receive funding each year from the Clean Communities Program Fund, file statistical reports each year with the council to track the progress of their programs.

According to the council's survey, the most frequently found litter in 2017 was tire scraps, representing 11% of the total haul. Rounding out the top five were papers, shrink wrap, sweet snack packaging, and plastic water bottles.

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