Truck tires, dead animals, fast-food trash.
Even an airplane door.
“It’s like a fun Easter egg hunt of just finding license plates and tire pieces,” crew supervisor Heather Brown said.
The crews work along Washington’s roads, highways and freeways throughout the spring, summer and fall, cleaning and picking up litter to help keep the state clean.
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The strangest thing they’ve found was that airplane door, Brown said.
“I still don’t understand how it got there,” she said.
Other finds are not so rare — needles, pee bottles and lots of run-of-the-dump garbage.
Brown, who’s worked for the corps for six years, said she loves the job.
“I love that when you drive along the freeway and you see how clean it is, you know you were a part of that,” she said.
Brown is working this fall as part of a three-person team along with Robert Williams and Stephen Smith in Pierce and Thurston counties. Teams are made up of workers who pick up the trash and a supervisor who’s responsible for keeping them safe.
This year, 42 people worked on Pierce-Thurston County. Team vary in size, and this year are smaller than normal because of budget cuts, said Ariona, the manager of the corps’ Southwest Region.
The statewide program received $2.1 million in the 2013-2014 budget, said Ariona, who goes by a single name. Next year’s budget has not yet been released.
Teens ages 14 to 17 work during the summer and are paid $9.32 an hour. Young adults 18 to 25 work in the spring and fall and make $11 an hour. Supervisors help educate the teens on the environment while on the job.
The job involves literally tons of litter.
Last summer, the teen crews collected 36,660 pounds — that’s 18.3 tons — of trash in Pierce County. Out of that, 2,492 pounds were recycled instead of being taken to landfills.
They covered a total of 114 miles of roads and cleaned 5.5 acres of land.
In the spring and fall, the adult crews, through mid-October, had picked up 42,450 pounds, or 21.2 tons, of trash. They have covered a total of 152 miles of roadway and cleaned nine acres of land.
And they are not stopping there.
“There is always work to do,” Smith said.