Danielle Stewart for Mayor of Beckley
Position Paper #11: Trash
“… litter doesn't have a friend. It doesn't have anybody who's saying, 'Wait a minute, this is really starting to get out of control.'”
– Bill Bryson
I had a voter reach out to me today (April 29) to ask about trash in our neighborhoods and so I decided to share my answer as a position paper so everyone can see.
Trash in our neighborhoods is something I have fought for many years. As the Executive Director of Piney Creek Watershed Association, I organized monthly cleanups and an annual Earth Day cleanup (Click HERE to see the numerous articles showing my dedication to cleaning up our community). However, it always felt like I was drinking from a fire hose – the more we cleaned up, the more there was to do. We had instances that we had to pick up trash at the same location twice in a row because 30 days after the first cleanup, it was trashed again. Because I spent so much time picking up trash, I thought of several ideas on how to address the issue.
First, I want to create a city "Trash Bounty" program. The city would create a fund that would pay non-profits, churches, and school groups $10 per bag to pick up trash in our neighborhoods. This would be a great fundraiser since they not only get paid for their service, they perform community service which most organizations have as a requirement. The city will provide bags, grabbers, vests, and gloves and then designate an area for them to clean up. The city would pick up the collected bags. A win-win for everyone.
Second, I want to explore ways for the city to pay homeless individuals or individuals in need to pick up trash. Here is an example from Little Rock, Arkansas of the program I want to create. We have people in the area that need a little boost and this is a great way to give them that boost while also helping our neighborhoods.
However, those two solutions are not enough. We are treating the symptoms and not the problems.
Currently, it is state law that every house and business must have trash service or show a receipt where they are taking their trash to the landfill. Even though there is a law, nobody is checking. Around 30% of the houses in Beckley are rentals and many landlords and renters do not pay for trash service. These people simply take their trash and throw it in the nearest vacant lot. I will research ways that trash service is paid through property taxes or a separate fee so that Beckley has universal trash service. This is how trash service is provided in the majority of the United States. This benefits the property owners since they no long must worry about trash service or trash building up on their properties. It benefits the trash services, who would bid for service areas, as they could collect trash cheaper and more efficient on their routes. It benefits our residents who will see less trash in their neighborhoods.
While universal trash service will address a lot of the problem, in the end, it is about attitude and caring. People who care about their community will not trash it. I believe many people in the city feel like the city government does not care about them and the trash is just one way they show their feelings. I will work to make everyone feel included and show that the city does care. When these people start loving our city again, they will start taking care of our city again.
“To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people's trash.”
– Bill Nye