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Volunteers remove thousands of pounds of trash from Charlotte streams and creeks

Nick de la Canal

Hundreds of volunteers grabbed trash bags and gloves on Saturday to pick up litter from nine Mecklenburg County streams and creeks.

It was part of the county's annual "Big Spring Clean" event, organized by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.

In past years, volunteers have hauled in multiple tons of trash from streams and creeks around the county, said Sharnelle Currence with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.

That includes a lot of takeout containers, water bottles, plastic bags and plenty of large, bulky or unusual items as well.

"We've had people pull out bicycles, motorbikes, antique dolls, tires. Really, lots and lots of different things come out," Currence said.

'More People, More Trash'

The amount of trash collected at the event each year has been rising, said Mecklenburg County Environmental Specialist Taylor Mebane.

"We're finding a lot more trash each year. It could be that a lot of people are moving to the area. More people, more trash. A lot of people are using our awesome greenways, so we're going to find more trash there, and a lot of our greenways line the creek," she said.

Some environmental groups said they saw a dramatic increase in littering during the pandemic as disposable face masks became widespread and people bought more takeout.

Nick de la Canal
Alex Mendoza and Alejandra Flores braved rainy, wet conditions to pick up litter from the Toby Creek greenway on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

Many volunteers at Saturday's event braved wet, rainy conditions, including many high schoolers working on their community service hours needed for graduation, as well as college students and adults.

Among them was Wilson Flores, who was picking up litter from the Toby Creek greenway with his daughter, Alejandra Flores, who needed community service hours for her high school graduation.

"Even if she didn't need the hours, I would probably come out and help out. It's just nice to help," Flores said.

Jannett Lueiro also attended with her son John, a freshman at Union Academy Charter School.

"It feels pretty good, cleaning up and making the environment better," her son said.

"Yeah, I think we made a difference," Lueiro added.

Organizers said they would release the total amount of trash collected across all locations later in the week. At the Toby Creek greenway, Mebane said volunteers collected about 100 bags weighing in total around 1,800 to 2,000 pounds.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal