Free Trash Cans: A Huge Win for Clean Water!
By this point, you have probably heard that Baltimore City Department of Public Works has begun to distribute municipal trash cans to all households throughout the city.
This is the culmination of many years of effort by individuals, community groups, city agencies, and non-profit organizations, including Blue Water Baltimore.
The Clean Water Communities program brought together key partners from Baltimore City, non-profits, and residents to better understand the trash problem in Baltimore. An issue that repeatedly came up in our conversations and meetings with residents and community leaders was simply a lack of trash cans.
Many residents cannot afford to keep buying trash cans after repeatedly having their trash cans or lids stolen or run over. Trash that is set out without a lid or a can will attract rats, and often fuels dumping.
When it rains in Baltimore, trash and pollutants on our streets are carried into the storm drains and directly to our streams, harbor, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Furthermore, trash in the alley makes it unsafe for children to play, and can not only be a public health hazard, but can also damage the ecosystem. Of course, the problem of trash is complex. Education and awareness is also a huge part of cleaning up the city.
In 2011, Blue Water Baltimore launched our Storm Drain Art program, in partnership with Waterfront Partnership, MICA, and 901 Arts, which educates participants in a fun, creative way, on how trash in the street ends up in the nearest body of water. However, education alone is not enough to address the trash problem in Baltimore City.
In 2014, Baltimore City Department of Public Works conducted a pilot study in Greater Mondawmin and Belair-Edison, and distributed a 65 gallon trash can with durable resin, an attached lid, and rolling wheels to each address.
Residents loved the cans, and Baltimore City Department of Public Works found that they significantly reduced the amount of litter and rats in each community. Since the roll-out was so successful, every address in the city is receiving a municipal can.
Distribution began March 1, 2016 in Penn-North and will continue throughout the city until June 2016. We are hopeful that the long-awaited trash cans will make a significant dent in the trash that ends up in our waterways, and the health of Baltimore communities.