Raising Litter Awareness: Record Number of Residents Participate in Cleanups and Learn to ‘Take Control and Take Care of Their Trash’

July 16, 2012

(Washington, DC) There was an increase in litter awareness throughout the Potomac River Watershed during April 2012 marked by the successes of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (AFF) Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative. A record number of volunteers participated at a record number of sites as part the Foundation’s 24th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Along with the Cleanup, a record number of enforcement agencies from around the Potomac Watershed partnered with AFF during the Annual Litter Enforcement Month (LEM) to raise awareness of litter, illegal dumping and related crimes, the laws associated with them, as well as their effects on our communities, our economy, and the Potomac River.

Led by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and our partner organizations, 14,616 volunteers removed 262 tons trash and debris from the region at 660 of cleanup sites throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia during the 24th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. This year’s volunteer and site numbers were a record high for the Annual Cleanup and the average poundage of trash collected per volunteer decreased from last year, a trend that the Foundation hopes to continue. “Through cleanup efforts, particularly with ones as large as our Annual Cleanup, we are able to not only remove a significant amount of litter from the watershed, but also raise awareness and educated the public about the negative impacts of litter in our watershed,” explained Lori Arguelles, Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. “Through increased participation, more residents are able to see the litter problem first hand, motivating them to change their behaviors.”

Residents of the region were also reminded that there are criminal consequences to littering during Litter Enforcement Month (LEM), a partnership between regional law enforcement departments, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and the Alice Ferguson Foundation. During LEM, participating agencies issued a total of 635 litter related citations, violations, and other reports including a total of 84 citations specifically for litter or illegal dumping (view full report here).

This year’s efforts by the participating jurisdictions were successful due to a striking increase in officer education, public outreach and enforcement from previous years. Over 4,000 officers were educated about litter and litter-related codes by the ten enforcement agencies from nine jurisdictions, a record for participation. These efforts have demonstrated that participating jurisdictions take litter, illegal dumping, and related crimes seriously and that there will be consequences for violators.

“Any pollution that ends up in or on public lands is dangerous to our environment. Whether it is yard waste, plastic bottles or even hazardous materials, it’s all harmful to our water supply and all who consume it. Our goal is to prevent any action that endangers our parkland and our community.” said Chief Darien L. Manley, Montgomery County Division, Maryland-National Capital Park Police. Enforcement is an important component in changing behavior and empowering people to take control, take care of their trash.

Litter Enforcement Month 2012 Participants included:

    Maryland: Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Maryland National Resources Police, Montgomery County Police Department, and Prince George’s County Police Department

    Virginia: Alexandria Police Department and Code Administration, Arlington County Police Department and Prince William County Police Department

    Other: District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department and United States Park Police.

The Cleanup is sponsored by: The Summit Fund of Washington, REI, Telemundo, Skanska Infrastructure Development, Mom’s Organic Market, ExxonMobil, Washington Gas, GenOn, Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company, Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources, District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, HMS Host, Arnold & Porter, DC Water, The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association.

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