When you’re walking around a neighborhood, have you ever noticed how one block might be clean and the next is littered with trash? Or one side of the street is different from the other?
With support from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, we hired five interns to help us conduct a litter audit in five neighborhoods of Baltimore. The interns are each assigned to one neighborhood, and walk a route through a residential area once a week, on the same day and time. They grade both sides of each block for the amount of litter, with a 1 being a clean street and sidewalk, and a 4 being totally trashed. This scale is also used in Philadelphia and by the Healthy Harbor initiative, so the data is comparable to other surveys.
They started in September and October and will continue working until the end of March, when we will analyze all the data and try to identify trends. They are keeping track of vacant properties, schools, green spaces, and other features along the route, as well as collection and street sweeping days, weather, and community events that might affect litter levels. As our social marketing campaign rolls out, we hope to see improvements reflected in this data.
Charles Graham, a recent graduate of Ben Franklin High School in Brooklyn, emailed me recently because his neighborhood suddenly seemed much cleaner than it had been, and he didn’t know why. Without these weekly observations, we might never notice fluctuations like this, but now we are motivated to figure out why.
Tricia Christensen is a masters candidate at Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She’s been walking Baltimore Highlands since September and says, “I moved to Baltimore to work on a graduate degree in public policy, and while I never intended to get involved in litter/trash policy, I couldn’t help but notice the need around the city. When walking around my assigned neighborhood, I am still surprised at the amount of new trash not only blown to the edges of the roads and into the gutters, but also scattered on the sidewalk from individuals casually dropping their trash as they walk along.”
Colson Campbell, also an MPP candidate at Bloomberg, says the weekly walks in Mondawmin have introduced her community members she wouldn’t have otherwise met: “I’ve heard their suggestions on how to keep their community clean. I also really love the city of Baltimore and believe this project is dedicated to keeping our city clean, which I really appreciate.”
Photo by Louis Kay, during a walk in Waverly.