A Never-Ending Stream

Davey Rogner spent much of last year picking up trash. As campaign coordinator for Pick Up America, he traveled from Maryland’s Atlantic coast into Ohio, as part of PUA’s mission to walk across the country picking up trash and building a network of activists.

It’s an admirable goal, but cleaning up litter is not sustainable. Davey wrote about a recent volunteer event in Hyattsville, and you can feel the frustration in his words:

Yesterday, volunteers spread over the same 300 yard section of stream I’d cleaned back in 2009 and over the course of two and a half hours made that section the cleanest I have ever seen it. Reflecting on the volumes of trash that were once there it was satisfying to see our progress in cleaning that area. Neighbors of the Northwest Branch have been cleaning that same section of stream at all of their bi-yearly clean-ups. I am happy to report, that for now, it’s time to move on from this section. It is very clean. Let’s head to the other side of the stream.

Seeing that most of the work was finished on that section, I wanted to take a crew over to the “Welcome to Hyattsville” sign I had visited a year earlier. We crossed under Queens Chapel Rd through a large stream outwash storm drain. As soon as we got to the other side, everyone was taken aback by the filth. At another clean-up I did in 2009 with about 30 volunteers from a UMCP student group Engineers Without Borders in 2009, we focused solely on this very spot next to the giant storm drain. It was actually in worse condition than when I had cleaned it in 2009.

I asked everyone to leave the trash there as I thought it important to visit the forest next to the “Welcome to Hyattsville” sign. When we got to the forest we were dumbstruck. Not only was the place filthy, but it was worse than when I passed by in 2010. A path had been created into the forest where one broken chair sat alone surrounded by heaps and heaps of litter. Three men stood in a circle amongst what to me appeared to be a drunken trash lair. With a smile, they exited the forest. I said “This place is filthy, do you want to help us clean?” One said “What?” Thinking he didn’t speak English, I simply said “Mucho Basura.” He said “yes” and walked away. His friends followed, both looking drunk, desperate, and possibly even confrontational since we were descending upon their lair.

It’s time to address the trash problem from a new angle, to reduce the amount of “stuff” we use and therefore the amount of waste we produce. Contact your legislators today and ask them to support the Clean the Streams and Beautify the Bay Act of 2011.

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