Be Litter Free on Earth Day and every day

Kids pick up 570 lbs. of trash at local parks
Raven Community School students and adult volunteers cleaned up 570 lbs. of trash in honor of Earth Day over the weekend. They celebrated with a bonfire picnic with hotdogs and s'mores afterward.

There are many ways to take care of our planet, on Earth Day and every day. One group looking out for Juneau year-round is Litter Free, a nonprofit formed in 1985 with “the express purpose of creating a cleaner environment and encouraging recycling within the City and Borough of Juneau,” according to the Litter Free website.

At least one group was inspired by Earth Day — which is today — to do a major cleanup; Raven Correspondence School students collected about 570 lbs. of trash and recyclables, Pam Roemeling reported, from Rotary Park, Melvin Park, Skaters’ Cabin and roadways in between. The group was sponsored by Litter Free through its Youth Litter Patrol program, which donates $10 per hour of trash pickup per student volunteer to local youth organizations, said program coordinator Christianna Nicklie.

Roemeling, who coordinated the students for RCS’s third annual clean-up, had only positive things to say about the effort.

“There’s, of course, the lessons that the students learn from it,” she said. “And in addition to that, it provides money for student activities throughout the year.”

Students get a lot out of it, Roemeling said: “Caring for the environment, community service, team-building and fundraising, all at the same time.”

Roemeling said cleaning up litter may not be the most fun part, but they always have a picnic with hotdogs and s’mores afterward.

“It’s a time to get together with friends and do something meaningful,” she said.

Roemeling’s daughter Maddy, 9, enjoys the clean-up, she said.

“I’ve been doing this for three years and I think it’s really fun,” she said. “My favorite part was when at the beach, there’s this hockey pusher thingy to clean the ice off, and I swept the beach and that was really fun.”

The weirdest thing Maddy said they found during the clean-up was a big, blue blanket at the beach. Roemeling said they found a $10 bill.

Selma and Raymie Matiashowski, 13-year-old twins, also participated in the cleanup.

“I kind of noticed that there was more trash than I thought there would be,” Selma said. “Looking around, you don’t really notice it when you’re just playing at the park.”

Selma and a friend were most disappointed cleaning out under the bleachers at Melvin Park. She said it was “really gross.”

Raymie said they found a bunch of bottles, McDonald’s containers, cigarette butts and a fender — some floating in water in a ditch, a lot in the parks and parking lots.

Ian League, 15, noted that it is “rather unattractive on the side of the roads, you look when you’re driving on the roads and it’s beautiful nature, then next thing you know — trash.”

The bonfire and picnic after the cleanup and time spent with friends was certainly one highlight, Ian said, though he also enjoyed participating “even though it could seem like a little bit of a drag picking up trash in the rain.”

Selma and Raymie both said the best part of the day was seeing the progress when it was complete.

“I guess just ... noticing how much better it looked when you were done,” Selma said.

What did these students who worked so hard cleaning up Juneau’s litter have to say?

“When you’re done with your stuff, throw it away in a trash can,” was Raymie’s advice.

Of the 570 lbs. of trash cleaned up, Roemeling said they were able to recycle 10 lbs. of it. Recycling is a major goal of the program.

“Around this time of year, we get a lot of the school nonprofit groups, such as sports teams and extra-academic,” Nicklie said.

These youth groups will most often clean up around the schools and neighboring areas. The Litter Patrol program is funded by an Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling grant, which allows Litter Free to pay youth for their hard work, up to $1,500 in a fiscal year for any given group.

In addition to the Litter Patrol program, Nicklie mentioned the upcoming city-wide cleanup day, which will be Saturday, May 10. Bag and signup stations, available from 8 to 10 a.m., will be located in the Foodland IGA parking lot, at the Douglas Fire Hall, Western Auto Marine, Lyle’s & Jensen’s Home Furnishings, Super Bear Supermarket, Duck Creek Market, the University of Alaska Southeast Bookstore and the Lynn Canal Fire Station. A picnic for volunteers will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., sponsored by the Juneau Watershed Partnership.

Nicklie also mentioned that Litter Free can provide free dump passes to volunteers who are willing to clean up garbage around town without pay.

For more information about Litter Free and its programs, visit litterfree.org.

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