Over 200 volunteers who participated in the 19th annual NC Big Sweep in Orange County on Saturday, Nov. 4 picked up more than 5,600 pounds of bottles, cans, tires, fast food containers and wrappers, cigarette butts, and construction debris from 15.8 miles along Chapel Hill greenways, streams, and roads. Volunteers helping in the Orange County portion of Eno River State Park hauled an additional 4,200 pounds of trash from 5.8 miles of the river and its banks, including two washing machines and car parts.
Groups who helped remove litter included students from Chapel Hill High School, UNC groups, scouts, and residents of three Chapel Hill Public Housing communities.
Collecting and properly disposing of the trash took the Town of Chapel Hill’s Landscaping staff a full day.
Litter stems from a number of causes — gravity, wind, water, human carelessness, and destruction of evidence, such as when the police may be about to stop a car with open beer bottles. “We can’t control gravity, wind and water,” says Wendy Smith, event organizer and Stormwater Management Environmental Education Coordinator. “And there are some people whose behavior will not change. But we can try to reduce litter by picking it up quickly, as litter begets more litter. We can also make more people aware that litter hurts. The economy and morale are hurt when communities are trashed; it hurts when there are traffic accidents due to large items in the roads; it hurts wildlife as they ingest toxic litter like cigarette butts, or get injured by sharp objects or entanglement. Trash pollutes our waterways with debris, bacteria and chemicals.”