Lack of clean-up volunteers leads to more strewn trash; Norfolk agency pleads for help

Posted at 4:36 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 07:51:51-05

NORFOLK, Va. -- Residents in the City of Norfolk say they are seeing more trash scattered around their neighborhoods, reporting it to agencies such as Keep Norfolk Beautiful. The agency also notices the issue.

"Our city here locally has been seeing an absolute increase in litter,” Sarah Sterzing, Education and Program Manager with Keep Norfolk Beautiful, said.

Sterzing works to ensure the city stays clean. The agency does that through volunteerism and educating the public.

"We get calls every day from people saying, ‘You know, there's a litter problem,’” Sterzing said. “I'm like, ‘Of everybody, I probably know more than anybody else.’”

Sterzing is in charge of recruiting volunteers to go throughout the city and help pick up trash. The problem, however, is the lack of and waning number of volunteers.

According to agency statistics from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, KNB had 3,361 volunteers. They picked up 53,078 pounds of trash in that time frame.

Within the last six months, the number of volunteers was about half that at just 1,557 volunteers with 15,134 pounds of trash picked up.

"We're just doing the best we can with a very small group,” Sterzing said.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a major reason for the drop.

"Many who were with organizations were told that they could not volunteer,” Sterzing explained. “The military, who we rely heavily on, had sort of a stop on their volunteering."

The trash does not just make for an ugly sight; loose trash also ends up in the sewers.

"All of that ends up at the curb line and ends up in our stormwater system,” Sterzing said. “That's how our flooding happens."

But while some worry, Sterzing said volunteering to pick up trash is a social distancing-friendly activity to do.

"We've had families who've come out,” Sterzing said, “we've had groups of friends who haven't been able to see each other."

Volunteers are provided with a pick-up stick and a trash bag with a holder. Those volunteering on busy roads will also get a safety vest

"We're gloved, we're sanitized, we're ready to get people to help us,” Sterzing said.

All equipment will be provided. If you would like to volunteer with Keep Norfolk Beautiful, more information can be found on KNB’s website. High school and college students can also receive community service hours through volunteering with KNB.