On Sept. 14, I stopped complaining about trash in the city’s parks and took matters into my own hands. Inspired by the outpouring of community cleanup following May’s downtown riots, I thought we should do this every day and ignite a culture where Seattle is every resident’s backyard for which to care.
Several organized litter pick ups later, our community has woken up and bonded over the therapeutic, addictive and fulfilling task of picking up trash. Trash pinchers cost $10. (If you’re lucky, I might have supplies to share or give you.) Most of us already own gloves, proper shoes and bags to participate. Trash is constant and is everyone’s burden to share, despite the fact that trash cans and Dumpsters are readily available to use throughout town and in the parks.
When we ran into bigger jobs, neighbors simply offered their truck and a $30 dump run for things like abandoned soggy wet mattresses, broken-down furniture, fax machines, outdated computers, piles and piles of clothes and even Halloween costumes.
Seattle Parks and Seattle Public Utilities thanked us for sharing the burden of cleaning up the constant trash typically blamed on those experiencing homelessness. It’s impossible to keep up with. But why?
The inner city street and park trash patterns point primarily to individual well-intended do-gooders, organized do-gooders and illegal dumping using our parks, encampments and underpasses to camouflage the most offensive mounds of trash. It’s easy to point the finger to the hoarding mentality of those who have less, but blame those, too, who dump their junk, treating those in despair as some sort of Goodwill drop-off location.
A typical litter pickup lasting one or two hours in any city park easily yields 200 or more used drug needles. But how do they get there in the first place? We the taxpayers and city-funded services provide the clean needles without requiring a one-for-one exchange. There is too much trust in the negotiation process to handing out clean needles. As an exercise, I went to my local needle-exchange storefront and walked out with 100 needles because I seemed convincing. The needle-exchange program is broken, and needles litter our streets and parks in a very dangerous and unsanitary way.
To my fellow neighbors and do-gooders, please start a movement and adopt your block, buy some pinchers and enjoy the merits of Trashercise. To our well-intended charitable food and supply services who leave food at street corners, or bags of clothes at parks, or drive 24-foot trucks into our parks handing out literally tons of supplies, please consider this: For every bag or pound of food, supplies, loaded backpacks, sack lunches or full turkey dinners, please pack out that same tonnage, and assist with cleaning our city.
The circular economy of donations and free drug needles needs improvement and accountability, as seen in the ever growing accumulation of trash.
Please adopt a pack-it-in, pack-it-out sense of responsibility for a more beautiful and safe Seattle.
The Find It, Fix It mobile app is the most underutilized city resource to report garbage piles. If you do not use it daily, you are part of the trash problem.