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Citizens Against Litter

January 2007 Newslitter

In this Newslitter: Open letter to our Mayor; New Year's resolutions; Dynamics of the street #1; Dynamics of the street #2; Mess on Amberson; The Tear-orist strikes back; Oakland buzz; Four neighborhood coalition; Brrr...in Dormont; Disappearing act; Roll out the barrel; Kudos to Walnut Capital; "I Litter" Awards; Garbagevilles; "Give me liberty, give me litter"; Volunteer's View; Think small and carry a big stick; Mr. Litterman wants you; Another country heard from; Police the area; Ask Mr. Litterman

Open letter to our Mayor

As you know, I'm on the streets of our neighborhoods regularly. I speak to many neighborhood leaders about litter. I often email Public Works directors and supervisors.

I often see foremen and workers on the streets doing their jobs. I just want you to know that every experience I've had with Public Works people from top to bottom has been pleasant and productive. The volunteer's job is made easier because of these outstanding people. Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have them.

Boris Weinstein Citizens Against Litter

New Year's resolutions

You have your favorite resolutions. Here are some more to think about. for the New Year. Under the heading of "Redd Up in No-Man's Land". These are "tweener" neighborhood places. Hard-to-get-to-and-to-clean connector roads. They're out there for all to see but get little attention. They're also places visitors see and form lasting impressions about the cleanliness of our city. Let's resolve to start cleaning them up in 2007. Sounds like a job for Public Works. Unsafe for walk-around volunteers to mess with.

I'll bet you can add a couple dozen more "tweeners." Let's hear about them. We'll let Public Works know. Email us at info@citizensagainstlitter.org.

Here's another resolution for you that's a little closer to home and is easy to keep. Next time you walk out your front door, be it home, work, or school, look around. Do you see some litter? Pick it up, if even only one piece. There are a lot of front doors in Pittsburgh. Imagine the difference it would make if everyone kept this simple resolution.

Dynamics of the street #1

Just before our mild winter weather turned into winter last month this was a familiar scene on Shadyside streets. Simultaneously:

Garbage men were picking up bags filled with garbage, plastic and metal trash cans, blue-bagged recyclables and tied bundles of newspapers and magazines. They would empty them in huge trucks that are noisy compactors on wheels. They would disappear until the next week.

Gardener service workers were raking, blowing, and gathering tons of leaves -- piled high -- onto oversized tarpaulins in one final act of fall to make private property and public streets redded up for winter. They would empty leaves into mid-sized trucks and disappear until spring.

A Parking Authority worker was cleaning out parking meters and dumping dimes, nickels and quarters into rolling metal canisters. He would haul his haul away in a small truck bound for banks and safes. He would reappear the next week and refill the coffers.

Anti-litter volunteers were picking up everyday odds and ends: empty coffee containers, pop and beer cans, newspapers and circulars, fast food wrappers, napkins and facial tissues from streets, sidewalks, gutters and grassy places under leaves. Volunteers would fill plastic grocery bags and dump them in nearby dumpsters and trash cans. Volunteers would return in a couple days to remove more litter and help keep Shadyside clean.

Dynamics of the street #2

Wednesday, December 13 was a great day to pick up litter. This volunteer's route took him to Dumpster Alley, the alley behind the Walnut Street shops and restaurants. It's still a mess but looking a little better. When I was there this is what was going on.

This volunteer was picking up on both sides of the alley, even in some of the open garages where wind-whipped trash ended up.

A woman who lives on Howe Street was picking up alley trash from across the way blown into her gravel-covered parking spaces. She's seems like the kind of person who redds up often. She couldn't wait to inform me that she'd be calling Public Works to complain about the Walnut Street merchants and their back alley mess.

A Public Works Environmental Services foreman, Ron Bortz, was inspecting Dumpster Alley. You know he's been there before, checking on the Walnut Street merchants. In his notebook were a couple complaint memos and a Citizens Against Litter monthly newsletter with a list of "garbagevilles" in the neighborhood.

A resident in that apartment building on the corner of Ivy Street and Dumpster Alley was lamenting how "the college kids on the third floor drop bags of trash from their rear porch into open dumpsters." They miss a lot and trash the alley.

Still, it's a satisfying feeling to look over your shoulder -- even in Dumpster Alley -- and see how litter-free things are...for the moment.

Mess on Amberson

A contrast of building sites. Several large, magnificent homes on Amberson between Ellsworth and Pembroke have undergone major renovation by many contractors. These sites are spotless with trash either removed daily or secured in temporary dumpsters.

However, the site on Amberson at Fifth Avenue where an old "Millionaire's Row mansion" is being converted into a bed & breakfast is littered with empty cartons and plastic pipe beside a Mr. John and piece of building equipment. We're not showing our best side. Public Works take note.

The Tear-orist strikes back

Last month's mention of the Shadyside tear-orist didn't put an end to his (or her) boorish behavior. This volunteer followed a path of torn-up Powerball tickets down Negley, Ellsworth, and Summerlea.

Hey Tear-orist, we understand that you're angry about not winning the big jackpot, but ripping up the tickets and throwing them on the ground won't guarantee better luck next time.

Oakland buzz

Laura Ludwig of the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. brings impressive news. "We've been busy here in Oakland. We've now surpassed 6,000 volunteers who have collected 3,300 bags of litter and debris off the streets." You read it right. OPDC works with 6,000 volunteers!

Four neighborhood coalition

Twenty people attended the planning meeting Thursday, December 21 for the four-neighborhood Redd Up Coalition for Squirrel Hill, Homewood, Point Breeze South and Point Breeze North. The redd up will be held April 27-29. Four attendees were from Public Works (three of them attended briefly and left for other Public Works business). Representatives of the City Council offices of Doug Shields, Bill Peduto and Twanda Carlisle also attended. The next planning meeting will be held Thursday, January 18. Enthusiasm for the multi-neighborhood weekend cleanup is very high.

Brrr...in Dormont

"My wife and I made it out on Saturday (December 9). Brrr. A bit cold but we took care of our side of West Liberty Avenue plus a parking lot. We also did the back lot for the first time."

John Maggio

The Maggios reported later in the month that they also redded up their zone the next Saturday (December 16) and now are picking up litter on three parking lots plus their section of West Liberty Avenue.

There are 12 Citizen Against Litter volunteers in Dormont and the neighborhood hopes to recruit more.

Disappearing act

Nice to report that the pile of old tree branches at the residential parking lot on Bellefonte Street near Ellsworth Avenue has been hauled away after years of being there. Give an assist to Public Works that was notified recently of the trash.

Roll out the barrel

With an assist from Public Works, a barrel, becoming a fixture on Clyde Street near Ellsworth Avenue, has been removed from the sidewalk of Cathedral Mansions. The barrel collected water and was used as a dumping place for litter. Its appearance was ugly and the contents were health and sanitary hazards.

Kudos to Walnut Capital

Pleased to report that several Walnut Capital-owned apartment buildings at the Elmer-Bellefonte intersection have new trash containers bearing the BFI name. These replace other containers that usually were overflowing and causing litter messes. Quite an improvement.

"I Litter" Award

It's a shame that on the last day of fall -- and close to the end of the month -- Shadyside is denied getting through December without giving out "I Litter" awards. These two businesses put their business on the street big time, littering our neighborhood while hawking pizzas and car cosmetics.

Garbagevilles

There are three residences in Shadyside that have been reported to Public Works because their litter messes pull down the neighborhood.

700 Ivy Street at Elmer takes the cake. This multi-residential home is attractive in the front but is a littered mess in the rear and side with white plastic bags, blue plastic bags, loose garbage and assorted cans and bottles on the ground. This mess is scattered between four BFI waste containers and a fence. The fence holds back the litter. Otherwise, it would be all over the sidewalk and street. The house is across from Liberty School.

712 Bellefonte Street is not much better. This house has an unkempt front and layers of unsightly, wet, dirty leaves on the front steps and sidewalk. Garbage cans are in their permanent place on the front sidewalk. The plastic trash containers are always open and always filled with garbage. Many times-like now-empty beer bottles and empty six pack cartons are scattered around the trash cans. On this occasion, there were more than two dozen empty bottles. A classic beer dump that the neighbors must love to see.

5535 Ellsworth has all of the makings of a classic Garbageville: litter in the front lawn, and a huge pile of trash bags, furniture, appliances, and other garbage on both sides of the house. It's not something we like to see on our way to work every day.

"Give me liberty, give me litter"

This volunteer speaks to many neighborhood anti-litter advocates and usually begins by saying, "What I learned about litter was learned on the street." That's good advice for litter education at Liberty School in Shadyside whose campus covers an area bounded by Ellsworth, Bellefonte, Ivy and Elmer.

Want a shock? Liberty School is among the most littered property in Shadyside. Let's hope the school does better in reading, math and languages scores.

Give the principal, building maintenance person and teachers failing grades in civics and litter education.

This volunteer spent about an hour Saturday, Dec 23 picking up litter on school property, on sidewalks and in gutters. The haul was four bags of litter. This did not include litter on basketball courts, the drainage area around the playground or grassy places. This volunteer will continue to pick up litter at Liberty School. But it would help to have help.

I suggest that litter education for the children at Liberty School begin with explaining to students that putting their empty juice cartons, lunch wrappers, candy wrappers and other trash in trash cans is a good start. It should be first on the lesson plan.

I suggest the principal have lunch break monitors work with children to pick up litter (most of it is their own) before returning to the building.

I suggest the principal have the building maintenance person clean the campus, sidewalks, gutters and streets regularly.

I ask residents around Liberty School to contact the principal to become a better neighbor and help keep Shadyside clean.

Volunteer's view

"My weekly "maintenance" average is still 10 bags for the Eastern side of Shadyside. Litter rates are stable, but not declining! 3 bags of which are recyclables. Most interesting item this week: 1/2 case of full Lite Beer cans," wrote a volunteer. (Who said picking up litter isn't rewarding?)

"Can't we get more Walnut Street merchants to sweep their sidewalks and gutters?" (Mr. Litterman's answer: "Good point. You can count the number of merchants who do it on one hand.")

Think small and carry a big stick

(The following article was written by Boris Weinstein and submitted to the Pennsylvania Resources Council for publication in its state newsletter in December.)

I've heard the expression for years. "One person can make a difference." It's been happening to me in my retirement years.

Three years ago, I got two big ideas. Think small and smaller.

  1. I stopped dreaming of cleaning up the whole city of Pittsburgh and started dreaming of cleaning up my lovely, upscale neighborhood of Shadyside.
  2. I divided my neighborhood into zones. I took responsibility for one zone and began recruiting neighbors to pick a zone and start picking up.

Today, there are dozens of volunteers in our neighborhood Citizens Against Litter. Dozens more -- who aren't joiners -- clean up more regularly around their property. We're a cleaner neighborhood.

Pennsylvania Resources Council saw what we were doing, encouraged us and promoted our plan to other neighborhoods. We tell "The Shadyside Story" to whoever will listen with the result that Citizen Against Litter-style groups are multiplying faster.

Volunteer groups like ours are most effective dealing with everyday litter. The big cleanup jobs in blighted neighborhoods are being done by Pittsburgh's Public Works.

Our concept is pretty simple.

Mr. Litterman wants you

The item you're reading right this minute is exactly what we hoped for. This is your invitation to become a Citizens Against Litter volunteer. We have 70 volunteers on our roster in Shadyside and many of them are actively picking up litter when they can. Joining is painless. No dues. No uniforms. No meetings. Nothing but picking up litter. All we need is your name, email address and residence. We'll assign you to a zone or give you a choice of zones. Send your email to boris.weinstein@verizon.net or info@citizensagainstlitter.org. We recommend you wear gloves, stuff your pockets with grocery-size plastic bags, and use a picker-upper (buy it at Home Depot or Walgreens) to make it easier on your back. Now you're ready to pick up "everyday litter" from streets, gutters, sidewalks and grassy places. Keep Shadyside and Pittsburgh clean.

Another country heard from

(The following article, entitled "Trash-tossers defile our region," appeared recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Inquirer columnist John Grogan wrote it. It could have been written about "Everywhere USA.")

Recently I was at Lake Nockamixon in upper Bucks County with my daughter, enjoying an unseasonably balmy day.

The last die-hard sailors were pulling out their boats for the season. A few fishermen cast lines. Hikers plied the trails. Couples sat on park benches. Children played.

It is a beautiful spot, with steep wooded hills rising from the water. Yet Colleen, who is 9, had an eye for only one thing -- something I had learned to look right past.

"Dad," she said, crinkling her nose, "why do people throw their trash everywhere?"

Sure enough, the shoreline was littered with all sorts of flotsam from daily life - soda cans and juice boxes, cigarette packs and snack wrappers. Ten feet away sat a lonely trash can. I lifted the lid. It was empty.

How to explain this to a child? That some people consider the world their trash can? That they will drive for miles to enjoy the natural beauty of a place like this, and then think nothing of defiling it with their garbage?

How to explain that some among us don't give a damn about spoiling the experience for the next guy to come along? That they assume there will always be someone else willing to clean up after them?

How to tell her that some people are, quite bluntly, pigs?

"I think some people just don't stop to think," I told her.

The day's good deed

My daughter seemed to accept the explanation. Then, bless her little eco-heart, she began picking up trash and depositing it into the nearby can.

It was clear we weren't going anywhere until this chore was completed. I could wait or I could help. And so I joined her, and together we tiptoed over the boulders to reach every piece of junk we could find. Some of it clearly had washed up with the waves, and I tried to extend the benefit of the doubt: Maybe it had blown off boats, and the owners were unable to retrieve it. Some may have blown off picnic tables.

But a lot of the trash clearly had been dropped. Pigs, total pigs, I thought. A half-hour later, the little peninsula we were on was clean. "We did our good deed today," Colleen said.

I suppose we had, but it was like spitting into a forest fire.

A few days later, she and I were walking down a country lane near our house. The road drops down a steep hill with dense woods and plunging ravines on either side. It is an idyllic stretch, the last place you would expect to find a de facto junkyard. But the roadsides were strewn with everything from whiskey bottles to bald tires to a rusty water heater. Drive-by dumpers had left whatever they no longer valued.

Near where a stream crosses beneath the road were signs of an underage beer party. Two dozen empty cans were left behind as a reminder.

Slobs among us

This time there was no picking up the mess. There was simply too much of it spread over too great a distance. A good project for a Boy Scout troop or youth group, I noted.

The next day I pulled into a public parking lot and found fast-food bags, drink cups, half-eaten sandwiches and old newspapers left behind - all within sight of a waste can.

Trash, trash everywhere. Littering is a problem all over the world, but it seems to be a proud regional pastime here in the land of the Phillystines.

What gives?

I especially love the smokers who flick their smoldering butts out of moving cars as if they will magically disintegrate. Or even more, those who use their car ashtrays - then empty the whole ashtray in a parking lot.

Class act

Take the litterbug challenge: Drive any stretch of roadway - city, country, suburban, it doesn't matter - and count how many items of trash you see. The results will astound you.

We have grown so numb to it, we look right past it. Sometimes it takes a child's eyes to see what we adults have learned to overlook.

We've turned this verdant, historic land of ours into a garbage dump.

In a world of seemingly insurmountable problems, this is one that is easy enough to solve.

Next time, throw it in the can, OK?

(Mr. Grogan's email address is jgrogan@phillynews.com.)

Police the area

In the army, you say, "police the area" when you clean up. In Pittsburgh, you say "redd up." In Los Angeles, former East Pittsburgh author James Wambaugh of best-selling police books told Post-Gazette book editor Bob Hoover he still says redd up and gumband. "I haven't quit saying them."

Ask Mr. Litterman

Q: How can you keep writing about litter month after month?
A: There's a lot of litter, that's why. The Newslitter begins its third year with this issue.

Q: What have been the most-asked questions?
A: There are three. "When are you going to do something about graffiti, cigarette butts and Squirrel Hill?" We have our hands full just with litter. Cigarette butts are a lost cause. Have you seen how great Forbes and Murray look this past year?

Q: If there is such a thing as a "best day to pick up litter", what is your recommendation?
A: The day garbagemen take away your garbage. They don't mean to do it, but they sometimes create litter at the same time.

Recent Litter-ature

A complete list of past Litterature is available in our archives.


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