Litter in our Camden Community has been a constant issue and will continue to be so if we do not take the time to teach our youth why we should not do it.
In June the Cleveland Neighborhood Association hired a group of Step Up youth, ages 12-17, for an intern program we called Clean City Youth Project. The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) helped fund the project and gifted the Cleveland neighborhood a grant to supply the youth with t-shirts, water bottles, bags and trash grabbers.
I had the privilege of spending this summer picking up trash and learning about waste with this amazing group of Step Up youth. For five weeks we cleared out stormwater drains and public spaces from litter.
We not only picked up trash, but we learned about waste as well. Together we biked around the community and signed residents up for organics recycling, toured the Eureka Recycling plant and MWMO, stenciled “this water goes to our River” around stormwater drains with Friends of the Mississippi, and completed a 13-mile bike ride along the Mississippi River. We took the Metro Transit bus, walked and/or biked everywhere!
We focused on ways we can do our part to lower our carbon footprint by not “rushing” to get a driver’s license and own a car, but instead use alternative forms of transportation. “At first I was worried about biking everywhere, but now I love it,” said Kelis Smith, a North High Senior.
The lessons we learned about how we waste were so valuable, and I believe these future leaders will share this knowledge with their peers. “I learned how to separate my trash, and now
I know what can and cannot be recycled,” said Angel Hutchins, a 14-year-old Clean City Youth participant who lives in the Webber-Camden neighborhood. Guy Laurent, a 13-year-old Cleveland neighborhood participant learned that black plastic cannot be recycled in our facilities, “The laser that beams into the plastics has to figure out what kind of plastic it is, but it cannot pick up the black plastic because black absorbs light instead of reflects it.” Terrence Tate explained that it is a much larger issue, “The manufacturers need to stop producing black plastic, since we can’t recycle it.”
Together we learned how big of an issue it is that we have sewers that rush thousands of gallons of water at once into our Mississippi River. Before we had paved streets, sewers and storm water drains, water absorbed into the ground, grass clippings and leaves fell to the ground, broke down and provided nourishment to our soil. Now it is causing many negative and irreversible issues for our River, the creatures that live there, and even us!
“I am now aware of the fact that the trash that’s in our streets, ends up in the River, and all the water we drink and bathe in, comes from that same river,” said Angeline Vue, a sophmore at Patrick Henry High who also lives in the McKinley neighborhood.
Each youth participant received a Land Stewardship Certificate, an awesome networking opportunity and a cash stipend.
This article was written by Kristel Porter