Spring time means sunshine, longer days and grass and trees beginning to bloom.
In Hamilton, it’s also the time when litter that had been covered by the snow piles reveals itself throughout parks along roadsides and in neighbourhoods.
“As the snow melts, there is all kinds of garbage left over,” said Mayor Bob Bratina, talking to a group of 10- and 11-year-old students from Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Elementary School during the kick off of the Tim Hortons Team Up to Clean Up launch at the city’s Central Composting Facility on Burlington Street March 6.
The event, now in its 16th year, encourages people to register for the Team Up to Clean Up Spring Blitz starting in April.
Last year about 33,000 volunteers, including 16,000 children and young adults took part in the event, collecting 15,000 bags of garbage, and almost 6,000 bags of recyclables. With Tim Hortons the sponsor for the third year, the event has seen an increase in the amount of garbage, recyclables, and graffiti tags removed across the city. In 2011, 30,000 volunteers participated in 157 events, collecting 4,124 bags of litter, and 1,912 bags of recyclables.
“If every one of us just did a little bit, we could improve the cleanliness of the city by a whole lot,” said Bratina. “Why can’t we be the cleanest city?”
He encouraged the students if they are riding in a vehicle to tell any adult not to use the window as a garbage can. The results are plain to see with highway off-ramps and on-ramps the worse dumps inHamiltoncovered in debris.
“(Windows) are the biggest garbage disposals,” he said. “For some reason those ramps are covered in junk. People just throw (the garbage) out the window.”
It costs the city about $3 million annually to clean up litter and graffiti tags. In 2012, with the many volunteers participating in the clean up campaign, the city saved about $1.1 million in staffing costs, money the public works department doesn’t have to ask council for during budget deliberations, said city officials.
The Team Up to Clean Up program is ongoing throughout the year, but during April, the city makes a special push to get the community to concentrate on cleaning up their neighbourhoods. The city provide a clean up package including, graffiti wipes, gloves and bags, while Tim Hortons provides special incentive, prizes for the most waste collected, including bikes, and coffee makers.
The Team Up to Clean Up campaign also includes the adopt a park program, and Keep Hamilton Blooming.
The clean up program had been named Pitch-In Week previously and was held in April to coincide with Earth Day
Phil Homerski, information and business advisor for the public works department, and the Clean City Liaison Committee, which has helped to refocus and organize the event over the last three years, said the city and the CCLC has attempted to encourage more schools and students to get involved in the clean up events. It has even added a representative from the school board to their committee, said Homerski.
Their efforts have paid off. Last year about 11 of 25 high schools got involved including a total of about 1,000 youths and students. This year, Homerski is expecting more youths to come out for the events.
And even though there had been some hesitancy that public schools may not be participating as much because of the teacher job action, Homerski said the city has been “pleasantly surprised” about the response from elementary and secondary public schools interest in the event.
Bratina seemed to recognize the enthusiasm of the youngsters, who are already learning about environmental stewardship at their school.
“Many hands make short work,” he said.
To register online visit Hamilton.ca/TeamUpToCleanUp. The city will deliver a clean up package for your group. To receive a prize, visit Hamilton.ca/CommunityImprovementReport where group’s clean up results can be reported.