Greenspace: Litter campaign nets hefty results, odd items

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Birchwood Neighbors

Rochester is nearly 11 tons cleaner. Thanks to the efforts of more than 3,200 volunteers, 10.85 tons of trash and recycling were picked up during the city's annual "Litter Bit Better" cleanup event.

In all, 237 sites spanning 5,106 acres of public land in Rochester were beautified during the week-long event. Of those volunteers, 70 percent had participated in past years, volunteering between 90 minutes and two hours on average. And 46 percent of the volunteers who completed a survey this year said they found less litter than in years past at the same pickup site. Still, more than 3,700 pounds of recycling and 18,000 pounds of trash were collected during the week.

In addition to the usual fast food bags, stray pieces of paper and plastic bottles, volunteers found odd items such as a lawnmower, Easter eggs — both hard boiled and candy-filled plastic — two bags of groceries, limbs from a plastic doll, men's and women's underwear (found separately) and half a bowling ball.

"There are a lot of weird things that show up," said Megan Duffey Moeller, storm water educator for the City of Rochester.

Moeller said that while some littering is intentional — people throwing trash from cars or littering as they walk — most is accidental. "People don't bag their trash before putting it in the bin on the curb," she said. "And then, think about the winds we get. They'll easily knock over a trash can."


Bagging and tying trash is one way to keep it off the streets and out of the sewers, Moeller said. "That can really reduce the amount of litter we see."

Until then, the city will rely on this annual event to help clean up Rochester's streets. "It is an event that people keep coming back to," Moeller said.

The "Litter Bit Better" clean up event has a few things going for it, she said. Volunteers can sign up for just a couple of hours, clean a spot that means something special to them, and enjoy the fruits of their work all summer long.

"Even with the weather we've had, people just postponed and rescheduled. They go into Kwik Trip for bags, and when they're done they've got something they can see — three or four bags full of trash — they can look to."

Moeller said one of the biggest environmental benefits is that the trash that has been accumulating through the cold months gets picked up off the ground before the spring rains have a chance to wash it all down into our lakes and streams.

Another benefit, she said, is that when people see a litter-strewn stretch of ground, they are more likely to add to it.

"Litter begets litter," Moeller said. But, according to research from Keep America Beautiful, a clean shoulder of the road prevents people from intentionally littering.

"Also, when you get these kids out there they learn that this trash doesn't just go away," she said. "Maybe they'll be less likely to litter in the future."


Brian Todd is a Rochester freelance writer.

South Point Pick Up Crew.JPG
South Point Pick Up Crew.JPG

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