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Great Arkansas Cleanup takes out the trash

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on September 4, 2013 – 2:47 pmNo Comment

Illustration courtesy of Paige Mason.

Tired of trash? Volunteers across the state will do their part to scour their communities during the Great Arkansas Cleanup, an annual litter reduction campaign lasting Sept. 8 to Oct. 31.

“We want to encourage communities in the state to express their civic pride and make their communities better,” said Elizabeth Philpott, UALR alumna and volunteer services coordinator with Keep Arkansas Beautiful.

Because the commission only has three full-time staff members, it relies on volunteer groups. For the Great Arkansas Cleanup, they work with organizations of all kinds, including scouts, schools, government organizations and individual members of the community.

The cleanup, created in 1969 by Carl Garner from Tumbling Shoals, is sponsored by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, Keep Arkansas Beautiful and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Guidelines and supplies are given to organizations, but the communities control the event.

Philpott said she empowers organizers to recruit volunteers and promote their cleanups.

“We do want people cleaning what matters to them,” she added. “People know their communities better than we do,” Philpott said. “They know the trouble spots and illegal dumps.”

For example: when people dump their junk in an abandoned lot instead of paying to dispose of it properly at a landfill, an illegal dump is born. During the cleanup, landfills will waive their fees so that volunteers can clear out illegal dumps without paying, Philpott said.

Volunteers also clean up trash thrown from moving vehicles. “The number one thing that’s littered is cigarette butts,” Philpott said. Other commonly littered items include fast food containers and drink cans and bottles.

Volunteers should avoid “trucker bombs,” bottles of urine thrown to the road by truckers who do not stop to use the restroom, Philpott said. Abandoned bathroom items are also seemingly not a rarity.

“It’s so bizarre – any time there’s a creek cleanup, I feel like they always find a toilet,” she said.

Although the commission provides gloves, volunteers should use their best judgment concerning safety,. Safety tips are available on the commission’s website and include picking a safe location, supervising children and contacting the authorities if volunteers find illegal items.

Also included on the website are registration forms and a calendar of existing events, one of which is the Picking on Litter Cleanup at Pinnacle Mountain. The Cleanup gathers volunteers to clean in the morning with live music and a cookout in the afternoon.

Philpott said she has worked with groups from UALR and assisted with cleanup projects like the Coleman Creek Cleanup.

“We’re really interested in working with UALR. I’m an alumna and I love UALR’s campus … I have a sense of ownership in it because I went to school here,” she said. “I think it’s great. I think anything that creates awareness is great. A lot of people working together for a common goal is amazing. That’s why we do what we do.”

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