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#trashtag challenge 2019

City Hall Corner

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

I once saw a sign in a public park that asked “Why are you littering?”  The sign provided several possible answers including “I am a jerk,” “I don’t care about natural areas,” “Mommy still cleans up after me,” or “All of the above” and it got me thinking about why people litter to begin with.  When I looked into the reasoning behind why people litter it came down to just a few small things such as the inconvenience of taking garbage to a garbage can, the belief that it is somebody else’s job to pick up trash, that the litterer is simply adding to litter that is already there or that the litterer feels no responsibility to help keep public areas like streets, sidewalks and parks clean.  Uncouth commentators would say that litterers are lazy, selfish and simply don’t care about the environment or their community.

Littering is a problem in every community but it is especially troublesome in Cedar Springs because it has been a problem here for so long.  In the “broken windows” mentality, it is a well-known fact that people are more likely to litter in a place that already has litter versus a place that is clean and well-kept.  Some parts of Cedar Springs have not been kept clean and litter free for a long time.  Based upon the community survey from 2018, which identified litter and blight as major issues facing the City.  The City’s staff have put a significant amount of time and effort over the last year into code enforcement, downtown development and public space maintenance to improve the community and get rid of litter and blight.  

City staff take pride in our community and all staff members work to pick up trash and litter but we can’t do it alone.  This past weekend, I saw citizens cleaning up the area along 18-mile road, a frequent littering spot, and they had probably picked up 10 bags full of trash.  It is that type of good citizenship, taking pride in their community and doing something about it that will help turn the image and quality of this community to the better. 

I think one of the best things of 2019 was the #trashtag challenge with some amazing public space transformations.  The #trashtag challenge is where people share photos on social media of themselves cleaning up litter and garbage from blighted areas and urging others to do the same.  I fully support the #trashtag challenge and I also fully support the #donotlitterinthefirstplace challenge.

So, when you are setting your goals for the new year, please consider taking ownership of your community’s public spaces to be one of them.  When citizens take pride in their homes, neighborhoods, parks and City they help make it a better and nicer place to live, work and play for everybody.

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