Central Illinois has been blessed with a remarkably mild and storm-free winter season. That is the “good news.” The “bad news” is that without a masking blanket of snow, we are all too often faced with the refuse, debris and unwanted trash that people leave unattended or strewn about. “Litter” is the word we generally use to describe the waste products that are disposed of so carelessly, without respect for the environment or our fellow citizens. And without the cover of snow and ice, litter has been more visible this winter and we are faced with an unacceptable amount of discarded items. For this reason, the City of Peoria supports a litter pick-up program geared toward the general custom of a “spring cleaning.”
This is the best time of year to refresh our community’s physical appearance, in keeping with the renewed growth of plants and flowers and the rebirth of our green season. A community is judged in many ways, but one of the most dominant is our appearance. There is no question that a clean community rejuvenates the human spirit and the civic energy of its residents as well.
This is all a prelude to once again supporting a community-wide dedication to clean up and keep litter in its place. The city’s role is to provide an atmosphere that encourages a community of self-respect and to provide, as best we can, the resources underpinning this effort. That is why I called for a coordinated litter removal and management campaign in my 2005 State of the City address. That was followed in 2006 with the appointment of a litter committee and litter campaign leader. The latter was described by our media friends as a “litter czar,” a phrase that has stuck. We have been fortunate that volunteers have stepped forward to serve in this role, and I again express my appreciation to Steve Pierz, Kevin Glover and Diana Hall. As I write this, we are in the process of naming a new litter campaign leader. The City of Peoria’s Litter Campaign has coined a wonderfully descriptive phrase—“Pride in Peoria is picking up”—to promote and coordinate all of the well-intended initiatives, public and private, to encourage a litter-free community.
There are, of course, many players in the continual battle to put litter in its place. It all begins with the individual citizen and his or her personal responsibility to dispose of trash properly and set an example for others. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have seen people go out of their way to pick up blowing papers, discarded wrappers and food containers. In many neighborhoods, you will see someone with a trash bag—early in the morning—walking the streets, picking up the evening’s accumulation of litter. I salute these nameless folks who are the bedrock of community self-respect.
The next layer of responsibility rests with the neighborhood itself, and in Peoria, there are 100 registered neighborhood associations. These organizations do an outstanding job of self-policing and trash control, and they frequently track down repeat litter offenders and seek their cooperation. (It works when your neighbor shows up at your door, hands you a discarded soda can and says, “I believe this belongs to your daughter or son.”)
On April 21st, the neighborhoods themselves will conduct street-by-street, alley-by-alley, yard-by-yard litter control as part of the Great American Cleanup. The group responsible for coordinating this annual effort is the nonprofit Keep Peoria Beautiful. Backup is provided as needed by the city through the offices of our community development specialist, Steve Fairbanks, and the great help from Peoria Disposal Company (PDC), which provides containers and removal to the landfill.
The city’s efforts to promote litter control and removal would not succeed without Keep Peoria Beautiful, our neighborhood associations, PDC and citizen volunteers. But this is not just an activity for April 21st. The litter committee is active all year, encouraging education, awareness, involvement, follow-up and public communication and directly sponsors targeted cleanup efforts in problem areas. For example, last March, in the midst of snow flurries and a chaotic wind, the committee managed a downtown cleanup with the dedicated help of 30 volunteers—members of the committee and friends. Since the litter committee was formed in 2006, it has removed over 350 tons of trash and landscape waste. Its website, prideinpeoria.com, is an excellent resource for additional information.
There is no better time to renew our dedication and personal obligation to “putting litter in its place.” I’m proud of the work we are doing, and especially proud of those who make it happen. Taking pride in Peoria is everyone’s business. iBi