Eleven volunteers tackled the February trash pickup and collected nearly 440 pounds of trash—a staggering 4,425 pieces of trash. The trash pickup, organized by FODR Trash Wrangler Mark Alling, collected debris at the three bridges that cross Dragon Run—Mascot, Route 17, and Wares Bridge.
Trash pickups are more than just filling trash bags with litter. To get ready for the trash pickup Alling gathers supplies such as highway safety signs, safety vests, trash bags, and pick-up sticks. Before the pickup starts at 9 a.m., Alling puts out VDOT signs at each of the bridges in both directions alerting drivers that workers will be on the road ahead. For this particular pickup, Alling also dug out a half-buried tire at Ware’s bridge before the pickup began.
Starting a little after 9 a.m., volunteers split up and go to each of the three bridges where they comb the roadside for everything from cigarette butts and plastic scraps to tires and construction debris. Some of the most frequently found items on this pickup included cigarette butts, food wrappers, beverage cans, glass and plastic bottles. Unusual items included two cell phones and a five-dollar bill.
Volunteers either take their bags to the Mascot parking area or Alling picks up the bags in his trailer and takes them to Mascot. This is where the work gets really gnarly. The trash is dumped on tarps and sorted into categories such containers, beverage cans, cups and plates, etc. The pieces in each category are counted and entered in Clean Swell, an app from the Ocean Conservancy. Data entered into Clean Swell is uploaded to a global database which provides valuable information to policy makers and researchers and gives a global snapshot of ocean trash.
Once the trash is sorted and recorded, the volunteers pack it up again and Alling hauls it to the dump, takes down the safety signs, puts away or returns the supplies, and calls it a day, having truly earned the title of Trash Wrangler.
FODR’s trash pickups not only help keep the Dragon pristine, they also show that FODR’s stewardship of the Dragon includes everything from acquiring tracts of property within the Dragon Run watershed to picking up trash. It’s a win/win for the Dragon and the surrounding communities.