For my project I focused on Baltimore’s ever growing trash and litter pollution problem. The reasoning behind my choice was that littering is a problem that I have noticed on a firsthand basis daily. Whether it was the simple act of watching somebody throw trash out of the window, or a parent littering in front of their child I realized that there was a need for prevention as well as restoration. I decided to put together a Facebook page titled Clean Up Baltimore that now has 58 group members. So far we have only had 2 cleanups, however I do intend to keep the once a month tradition alive during the Summer. During our first event I noticed that just by having a group clean up, it sparked members of the community to come out and ask what we were doing and sometimes even attempt to get involved. This in itself was informational and influential because it allowed one more person know the effects that littering can have in their own community. There are a few reasons on why people litter, sometimes it is a lack of knowledge, other times it is laziness, and occasionally it is accidental. However, these few reasons are outnumbered by large in the effects that littering has on the environment.
Baltimore City spends an average of $10 million dollars annually just on trash clean up. Some of the negative effects that litter has are:
- Ruins the environment
- Negatively affects the ecosystem in that environment
- Can trap small animals
- Can create toxicity in animals (seafood) that may then be consumed
- Wildlife may mistake trash for food
- Cigarette filters end up in stomach’s of animals which can be poisonous
- Pollutes water and air
- Dangerous broken glass
- Mosquitoes from solid waste
- Decreases tourism
- Just plain gross!
In 2010, 9,100 tons of trash was collected during street sweeping in Baltimore. Although the Baltimore is doing a lot to try to prevent negative impacts that litter has it can still do more. Everyday the Water Wheel in the Harbor collects around 4 tons of trash. The majority of the trash found in the Harbor makes its way there from the Jones Falls Watershed. The Water Wheel has impacted trash pick up by collecting 95% of what usually would have to be done manually and is run exclusively by solar power. Although this is a great invention we now need to focus on stopping littering completely rather than just cleaning it up.
During the two clean-ups we worked with Parks and People, St. Francis Neighborhood Center, and Whitelock Community Farm. Clean-Ups are an easy and fun way to get involved in the community and to learn more about the history of Baltimore. Each of the clean-ups offered lunch/refreshments and even gave some background on the places that we were cleaning. All of this gave me a better perspective of the city we live in. For our first event with Parks and People we cleaned up Harlem Park, and more specifically Lafayette Square and a neighboring Inner Block Park N104. There we collected a reported 1,000 pounds of trash that consisted of cigarette butts, beverage containers, mattresses, and abandoned furniture.
By participating in Parks and People’s cleanup you receive a certificate saying not only that you cleaned up but that it counts towards your storm water remediation fees as a homeowner. There are are a lot of benefits that come with cleaning up neighborhoods and watersheds. It only takes around 2-3 hours to make a real difference in a community and I would insist that everybody try it at least once. The next stage of Clean Up Baltimore is to get a steady means of transportation so that more people can participate and network so that we can grow as a group. I would like to believe that I have positively affected others around me by getting them involved in the cleanups as well as picking up trash on a daily basis. I have learned a lot about myself as an activist through this experience. I learned that seeing people disrespect the land that we live on makes me angry, I learned that it doesn’t take much to make your work count, and that the feeling of leaving a place cleaner than what you found it is unparalleled.