Nora Baldwin, 8, a member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, carries a dirty shirt found on the side of Mendenhall Loop Road in between gloved fingers toward a litter bag on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Nora Baldwin, 8, a member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, carries a dirty shirt found on the side of Mendenhall Loop Road in between gloved fingers toward a litter bag on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau has its pick of the litter

Many hands make litter work.

This article has been updated to include a preliminary total of trash collected.

The children’s faces first bore triumphant grins. But soon, the corners of their mouths turned down and brows furrowed as their expressions curdled to show disgust.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 4009 and their families had achieved their goal of finding litter along Mendenhall Loop Road, and neither gloves nor grabber tools completely blunted the negative sensations that come with wrangling grimy, slimy and damp trash.

Delilah Whiteley, 7, a member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, grasps litter using a grabber tool and places it in a yellow litter bag held by Girl Scout Troop 4009 Troop Leader Sara Miller. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Delilah Whiteley, 7, a member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, grasps litter using a grabber tool and places it in a yellow litter bag held by Girl Scout Troop 4009 Troop Leader Sara Miller. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

However, each battered beer can, cloudy Coke bottle and piece of plastic sent waves of excited shouts through the group of over a dozen as they made their way down the well-traveled street for Juneau Litter Free Community Cleanup. Oddities such as cast-off crutches and a discarded dog bowl inspired curious chatter as the detritus made its way to collection bags.

Juniper Harris, 6, an aspiring member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, adds litter to a pile along Mendenhall Loop Road during the annual Juneau Litter Free Community Cleanup on Saturday, May 1. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juniper Harris, 6, an aspiring member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, adds litter to a pile along Mendenhall Loop Road during the annual Juneau Litter Free Community Cleanup on Saturday, May 1. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“We do try to do it every year,” said Troop Leader Sara Miller of the community cleanup.

The citywide event tasks residents with grabbing bright bags from one of several locations around town before filling the sacks with trash found in public spaces and leaving them on the side of main roads to be collected by volunteers. However, last year, pandemic conditions caused the cancellation of the annual event, that, according to organizing group Litter Free Inc., has over 100 years of history.

“This is kind of like a pent-up demand for people who want to go out and clean up,” said Litter Free Inc. President Laurie Sica.

While it was too early Monday morning to provide a headcount, Sica said demand and pleasant weather seemed to have fueled a robust turnout.

“We’re just so blessed to have such lovely weather for this,” Sica said.

Nyah Harris, 8, a member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, reacts to the sensation of cold, slimy trash felt through the protective layer of her glove on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Nyah Harris, 8, a member of Girl Scout Troop 4009, reacts to the sensation of cold, slimy trash felt through the protective layer of her glove on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The Girl Scouts were just one cell of volunteers who participated in the Saturday cleanup, and colorful trash bags that dotted roadsides around town showed signs of that concerted effort.

The cleanup is coordinated with other organizations, including Southeast Alaska Land Trust, Coastal Code, Cache in Trash Out and Friends of Recycling among others, according to Litter Free Inc.

Sica said more than 60 people picked up trash bags in Douglas, and the bag distribution site at Super Bear IGA saw over 100 people. Plus, Sica said there are often people, such as those involved in the Adopt-a-Highway program, who help collect trash but who are never tallied in any headcount.

A cyclists rides past a pile of bags filled with litter collected during the annual Juneau Litter Free event. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A cyclists rides past a pile of bags filled with litter collected during the annual Juneau Litter Free event. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

While Sica said an exact total won’t be clear until later in the week, as of Saturday 22,590 pounds —that’s over 11 tons —of litter had been brought to the landfill. She encouraged people who see stray bags of litter missed by volunteers to email litterfreeinc@gmail.com.

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

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