Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Gerald Thill, 7, inspects a weathered can before placing it in a litter bag on Saturday during the citywide cleanup.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Gerald Thill, 7, inspects a weathered can before placing it in a litter bag on Saturday during the citywide cleanup.

Cleaning up the environment is their bag

Annual citywide cleanup held.

This article has been updated to include additional information.

For the few Juneau residents not drawn outdoors Saturday by radiant sun and bright-blue skies, an annual communitywide cleanup provided another compelling reason.

Litter Free Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up the environment and encouraging recycling, once again organized the City-Wide Cleanup that distributes brightly colored bags to volunteers, who in turn rounded up trash on public lands.

“We just thought we’d get out because we love the Earth,” said Jamie Thill, who was collecting litter along Mendenhall Loop Road.

Jamie Thill, who was joined in the cleanup endeavor by John Thill and 7-year-old Gerald Thill, said it was their first time participating in the long-running event. The family moved to Juneau last year from Boise, Idaho.

While it was the first for the Thills, it has a long history in the city. Laurie Sica, president of Litter Free Inc., said the event has been ongoing at least since Litter Free Inc. formally became a nonprofit in the mid-1980s, and it likely predates that.

She said papers show that in 1916, Juneau Mayor B.D. Stewart pushed for a citywide cleanup campaign.

“So we like to say we have over 100 years of history,” Sica said.

In an email, Sica stated 12,730 pounds of trash were brought to the landfill, and about 600 people took bags to pick up trash —plus more people to haul the trash to the landfill, manage the disposal and organize the event.

“We are so thankful to them all, and to all the people who chose to grab a bag and pick up trash on one of the most beautiful days we have had this year!” Sica stated. “The only disappointment of the day is that we had to dispose of some items that we shouldn’t have to pick up if people managed their own waste properly — including pruned spruce tree limbs in yellow bags, many tires, a refrigerator and a dishwasher dumped on public property.”

The annual cleanup is aided by a sizable network of local businesses and organizations.

Bag distribution sites included the Douglas Public Library and Fire Hall, Foodland IGA’s parking lot, Western Auto, Fred Meyer, Super Bear IGA, Duck Creek Market and Forbidden Peak Brewery. Branta Street was also a bag site for the Southeast Alaska Land Trust and Coastal CODE’s wetlands cleanup.

Coastal CODE —Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone —is supported by Alaskan Brewing Co. and grants money toward projects that promote cleanup activities in coastal areas, the Duck Creek Market site was hosted by Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, according to Litter Free Inc., and Friends of Recycling volunteers helped sort recyclables at the landfill.

Sica said that if bags of collected litter linger on curbs in the coming days, people can alert organizers at litterfreeinc@gmail.com.

More than once a year

In addition to an extensive history with the annual cleanup, John Logan, is Youth Litter Patrol coordinator for Litter Free Inc.

That branch of the organization pays nonprofit youth groups $12 per hour per person — with a cap of $1,200 per cleanup — for cleanups conducted outside of the annual event. There is a two-week buffer before and after the annual event during which Litter Patrol cleanups are placed on pause, but Logan said more participation would be welcome once the window opens again.

“We’re always looking for more groups,” he said.

There’s been some years in which the patrol had to turn away applicants because of limited funds, Logan said, but that seems unlikely to be the case this year.

“We’ve had a pretty good couple of years,” he said.

Additional information about the Youth Litter Patrol can be found online at https://litterfree.org/litter-patrol/.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Bags of litter await pickup during the 2022 Annual City-Wide Cleanup of Public Lands on Saturday.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Bags of litter await pickup during the 2022 Annual City-Wide Cleanup of Public Lands on Saturday.

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