Spring never fails to bring up trash as a topic of conversation to Forest Park, as in “OMG there is so much trash in our streets.” And come next spring we forget. Here are some reminders, to see if we can move the conversation and not be stuck in the same spot every year.

Yes, there is street trash.

However there is a constant flow of street trash through the year.

Street trash is more noticeable after the snow melts because it has accumulated over the winter.

Most residents pick up street trash at different times of the day.

Forest Park Public Works constantly picks up street trash.

Residents that are not able to, or do not routinely pick up street trash in front of their houses, usually pile up more street trash.

Most street trash is food packaging.

Most street trash is caused by residents and local businesses.

Most street trash comes from garbage bins.

Some garbage bins are either regularly overflowing, open, or are assaulted by local fauna.

Most street trash is plastic because of companies and businesses that channel it towards us consumers.

Most plastic street trash is from carryout or food and drink packaging, often consumed at home.

Only a very small percentage of plastic street trash are facemasks.

Plastic trash does not decompose, so it stays put until taken to pollute elsewhere.

Recycling does not solve the street trash problem.

Picking up street trash does not solve the street trash problem either.

How do I know? I pick up data along with street trash because I have realized that my personal experience can only access a very narrow slice of reality.

Individuals and local businesses can assist in changing the disposable (lack of) culture that has resulted in this situation, by focusing on reusability. There is not one solution to fix it all, but every single person and every single local business can think about this and find concrete ways to reduce the flow of trash that we are ultimately hauling away –because we have the privilege to do so. Let’s make an effort to go beyond the band aid attitude of  ‘all you can waste’ bigger garbage bins and merely picking up. Let’s reduce waste at the source: as individuals and as a community.

The Science Art and Trash project has used the Litterati app since 2017. Its Facebook page can be found @sciartrash. I have personally been picking up trash since 2000 and every single resident I have ever chatted with does the same, very often from even earlier decades!. The Litterati app is available online at Litterati.org Many communities across the world team up with Litterati to address issues of city beautification and waste reduction by enabling residents to gather evidence and create effective change at personal, local and global scales.

If you pick up street trash, consider using the Litterati app to track the trash you pick up and see how accurately your individual experience compares to the data you collect. You may be as shocked as I was when I started. Collecting our street trash data also contributes to the global effort. If Forest Park decides to team up with Litterati as a community, that would be a next step in gathering evidence to pursue effective change at the local level. Forest Park is not alone in being showered with disposable garbage and I believe we can do better in moving forward instead of staying stuck.

Julieta Aguilera, Forest Park