This week the Maine Resource Recovery Association launches a new statewide program called Keep Maine Clean. The purpose is to build an army of good folks who pick up trash along our roads and highways.

The Maine Resource Recovery Association is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Bangor whose membership includes 162 Maine towns and cities along with recycling and waste-management businesses. Shelby Wright, MRRA’s director of communications and development, is the project coordinator for Keep Maine Clean.

Three years ago, Tom Doak of the Small Woodlot Owners Association and I began talking about projects that would benefit private landowners and let them know that access to their land for outdoor recreation is appreciated. We came up with the Keep Maine Clean program, and began looking for a nonprofit group to sponsor and implement the program.

In 2015, Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, at my request, sponsored a landowner relations bill that was enacted by the Legislature after amendments offered by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife were accepted. The new law created a Keep Maine Clean program at the department, focused only on those who pick up trash in the woods and along the waters of Maine. The department asked the Legislature to delete from the program those who pick up trash along the roads, because they did not consider that to be part of their agency’s mission.

Following that decision, I recruited consultant and lobbyist James Cote to help find a nonprofit sponsor and launch the project, focused on roadside trash pickup. After reading one of my columns about the project, Wright contacted me to express interest in sponsoring and housing the project at the Maine Resource Recovery Association.

Keep Maine Clean was officially launched yesterday on Wildfire, the TV talk show hosted by James Cote and me. Wright is the guest on the show, which airs on Time Warner cable station 9 on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. You can also access the show, including previous shows, online at

I hope you will join us in the important project. You can sign up by emailing Shelby at [email protected] or calling her at 942-6772. And please join our Keep Maine Clean group on Facebook.

Keep Maine Clean will focus on roadside pickup, with the hope and expectation that the state will partner with us and focus on trash pickup by sportsmen when they are out hunting and fishing and hikers when they are hiking Maine’s many trails.

Participants will receive a regular newsletter, featuring interesting stories from the participants themselves, along with news and information about recycling opportunities. They will also participate in a monthly contest featuring the most unusual items picked up that month, with prizes for the winners.

Glance out your car window as you drive Maine’s roads and you’ll know how important this is. Our roadsides are filled with trash, except in the places where Mainers are already picking it up. I have been doing this — and writing about road slobs — for a couple of years.

I can tell you that road slobs drink Bud Light and smoke Marlboro cigarettes. They also toss out lots of losing lottery tickets — just more evidence that road slobs are losers. On my garbage walks, I usually fill one bag with garbage and a second with bottles and cans.

The public’s health, as well as the health of our wild critters, is oftentimes jeopardized by this trash, and we will include a safety feature in the Keep Maine Clean program to keep our volunteers safe. It’s also important that we help landowners who are trashed by road slobs and others, partly to make sure their land remains open for public recreation. And there are recycling opportunities that the program will pursue, as the state works to increase the percentage of trash that is recycled. And of course, we want to keep Maine beautiful.

We are in this for the long haul and the obvious outcomes will be cleaner roads, happier landowners, a healthier outdoor environment, and new generations of Mainers who will not turn out to be road slobs. Yes, we’ll be taking this program into the schools and recruiting students to participate.

Walking back toward home after an hour of picking up trash , I admire the beauty of my woodlot, now free of garbage, but wonder how these road slobs can be so callous and inconsiderate, so uncaring about our beautiful state, that they toss their garbage out their vehicle window. Very sad.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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