Help Us Conduct a Litter Survey!

April 22nd is Earth Day. That’s always a big deal around the Park, and we share its importance with our friends and peers who have our same environmental concerns. The 22nd is on a Monday this year, so we thought that we would kick things off early with a cleanup on Belle Isle on the 21st.

Our cleanups rely heavily on our volunteers – people like you – who join us in the Park to tackle a problem area. Spots like Ancarrow’s Landing, Pony Pasture, and the boat launches like the one at Tredegar always seem to yield a good bit of litter.

Our cleanup on Sunday, April 21st, however, is a cleanup of a different sort. And it’s important that our showing of volunteers be strong.

We want to conduct a “litter survey.”

DC1 Logo ColorWe were approached by a company here in Richmond called Data Company One, and they help develop tools that allow their clients to measure their sustainability commitments. They’ve created a phone-based app called LitterX, and it helps us understand the nature of the litter we see in the Park.

As a sort of “proof-of-concept” test, they performed a litter survey of the area around VCU. As each participant picked up a piece of litter, they scanned it with their phone. LitterX plotted where the litter was found, what type of item it was, how much it weighed, and its CO2 footprint. They were able to determine that a stretch of Cumberland Street by the Downtown Expressway was a litter hot spot. 1 in four items was a plastic bottle, and 70% of the items could be recycled. They were even able to catalog which brand it represented. Coca Cola represented the top of the list, followed by Pepsi, Anheuser Busch, Nestle, and Keurig.

We know that litter is an ongoing problem in the James River Park System. It’s an issue in any public space. We often find, however, that people react when they learn how large of a problem it is. If they see a bottle on the ground near Hollywood Rapid, they think, “It’s just a bottle.” But if we’re able to tell them, “Last year we collected XXX number of pounds of discarded bottles in the Park,” then it educates them about the importance of proper disposal and/or recycling. If they know that a certain part of the Park or a particular trail collects the most litter, they become a bit more careful about their trash. Perhaps they even collect some along the way. Knowing a particular brand presents an issue, maybe they’re change their littering habits. We’re not suggesting any sort of boycott or saying you should or shouldn’t purchase or consume a product – who doesn’t love a cool, refreshing soft drink? – but knowing that the label staring them in the face is a top “litter offender” in the Park will emphasize the importance of not making that item litter.

Knowing more about the litter in the Park would also assist us in our efforts. It could help to determine the best spots for signage and trash receptacles. It could lead our efforts to promote recycling in the Park.

LitterX QR Code App Store RedirectFor all of these reasons, it’s important that we have a strong showing of volunteers for our Earth Day Litter Survey. First, visit LitterX and download the free app for your phone or scan the QR code. Next, visit our Volunteer Page, fill out the relevant information, and click the “Litter Survey” button. This will allow us to communicate directly with you should there be a change to our scheduling and and we can make certain to have the appropriate amount of tools and garbage bags. Lastly, visit our Facebook page, find our Litter Survey Event, and then share that with your friends!

We will be meeting at the base of the suspension bridge on Belle Isle at 9 AM on Sunday, April 21st. We’ll have grabbers and other tools, and will conduct our survey until noon.

As always, See you in the Park!

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