Editorial – Volunteers help clean up, beautify our community

Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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It is heartening to know is there are groups such as Suffolk Clean Community Commission and Keep Suffolk Beautiful stepping up to address the litter problems along Shingle Creek.

Kudos to the 15 folks who turned out recently to participate in this clean up.

These volunteers from the SCCC, friends of the program with the help of six Nansemond-Suffolk Academy students collected 75 bags of litter, several larger items and 19 tires along Shingle Creek, resulting in 2,300 pounds or 1.15 tons of trash collected, according to Suffolk Public Works Litter Control Coordinator Daniel McDonald. He serves as the city’s liaison for Suffolk Clean Community Commission and Keep Suffolk Beautiful.

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The two organizations were awarded a grant from Keep Virginia Beautiful to assist with this effort by funding use of floating booms to gather litter from the creek and push it to shore where it can be collected.

It remains disturbing, however, that in this day and time we still have to battle litter problems in our city. The images from Shingle Creek in the Sunday News-Herald should serve as a wake-up call to all of us.

It’s difficult to believe people still toss garbage in areas where it can end up in Shingle Creek, knowing it could end up in the Nansemond River and beyond. Additionally, all of this is too close to the Nansemond National Wildlife Refuge — an area and habitat we all want to preserve and protect.

Keeping Shingle Creek and other parts of Suffolk litter free isn’t difficult.

Keep America Beautiful found in its most recent national survey that 85% of littering is due to individual attitudes. Changing that behavior is the key.

KAB found that one in five opportunities at disposing of something ended in littering. Dropping something that became litter is the most frequent way it occurs at 54%. Flicking and/or flinging items was next, causing 20% of litter, and 7% was simple intentional littering. The organization found that about 15% of those surveyed self-reported that they litter now, a big improvement from the 50% who said they did back in 1969 when KAB was formed.

While the litter problem has improved, here are steps KAB said can take to end the it alltogether:

  • Make proper disposal convenient and accessible. Provide sufficient trash, ash, and recycling receptacles. There is a special need for more ash receptacles.
  • Ensure consistent and ongoing clean-up efforts. Littered environments attract more litter. Decrease the amount of existing litter.
  • Use landscaping, improving the built infrastructure, and ongoing maintenance to set a community standard and promote a sense of personal responsibility not to litter. Communities that make an effort to “beautify” result in lower rates of littering behavior.
  • Make the most of awareness and motivational campaigns. Use messaging that highlights social disapproval for littering and a preference for clean, litter-free communities. Messages that show littering as common undermine littering prevention. And keep the focus on individual responsibility.

Another important role groups such as Keep Suffolk Beautiful change these bad habits are through the educational programs they offer to our children. We are fortunate to have a strong program working on this front in our city.

If you missed February cleanup, another chance to help make a difference comes next month when Keep Suffolk Beautiful holds its St. Patrick’s Day River Cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon March 18 at Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina, 100 Constance Rd.

Also watch for information on this year’s Great American Cleanup held each April nationwide by KAB and its local programs.

By joining forces to battle litter and clean up what is out there, this is one problem we can eliminate in our lifetime.