Pittsburgh squad declares war on litter

Tom Fontaine
| Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homewood's litter was no match for Dawn Webb-Turner's claw.

"I've picked up a million of these," Webb-Turner, 43, of Homewood said Saturday morning as she used a long litter-grabbing tool with prongs at the end of it to snatch up candy wrappers buried in the grass of a small vacant lot along North Homewood Avenue.

Webb-Turner, a third-grade teacher, was one of more than 100 volunteers who participated in a spring cleanup that covered 20 blocks in Homewood. Hundreds more took part in similar efforts across the region.

Organizers at several events said off-and-on rain, and forecasts of much worse storms, led to a smaller showing of volunteers than in recent years.

"I think the turnout was phenomenal, all things considered. You just had to work between the raindrops," said a soaked Gail Felton, 59, of Bedford Dwellings.

Richard Rattner, president of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

"I thought for sure people would blow it off because of the weather, but people really stepped up," Rattner said about cleanup activities in the East End neighborhood that drew more than 100 volunteers.

Some volunteers said it appeared there was less litter than in previous years, attributing the decrease to changing attitudes and more cleaning up throughout the year instead of just once or twice annually.

"There are areas that are nowhere near as bad as they were five or six years ago. Things are changing for the better," said Luci-Jo DiMaggio, assistant director of Duquesne University's Spiritan campus ministry, which coordinated cleanup activities with residents in the Hill District and the South Side. Combined, more than 300 people participated in the Duquesne-sponsored cleanup and filled more than 1,000 trash bags with litter.

Volunteers in the South Side said empty beer bottles and cans were the most common fare in the bar-laden neighborhood, while Hill District litter was far more random, with larger discarded items ranging from recliners and sinks to bowling balls and cabinets.

Others said litterbugs are as bad as they ever were.

"It's pretty much the same crap every year that we deal with," said Dravosburg Councilman Greg Wilson, who organized a borough cleanup that drew about 30 people. He said the contingent filled almost 400 trash bags and retrieved about three dozen tires that were thrown down hillsides.

Boris Weinstein, chairman of the Clean Pittsburgh Commission, agreed.

"Every year it's the same thing. It's a recurring problem, a situation where some people don't care. But there are a lot of people out here today who do care, and we're not going away," said Weinstein, who participated in the Homewood cleanup.

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