Picking up garbage costs U time, money

Kathryn Nelson

For most people, picking up trash is not the ideal morning activity, but it’s a daily reality for University Landcare workers.

Landcare supervisor Adam Hawkinson said his crews spent more than 78 hours picking up garbage during the second week of school – an effort that costs the University plenty of money.

Campus cleanup can cost the University $640 to $800 a week, according to hourly wages ranging from $8.25 to $10.25 per hour for workers, Hawkinson said.

But that estimate includes only time documented by workers who are specifically designated to gather trash, he said.

Other employees such as mowers or gardeners often aid in trash cleanup but do not document it on their time card, Hawkinson said.

Trash is especially prevalent after weekends or during rainy days, he said.

Hot spots like Northrop Mall or the Washington Avenue Bridge also collect large amounts of garbage, which can fall onto the river flats, Hawkinson said.

“Just because it’s dropped on campus doesn’t mean it stays on campus,” he said.

Cigarette butts commonly are found on campus and their small size makes them difficult to collect, Hawkinson said.

To pick up the small pieces, Landcare workers have to use a mechanical sweeper, broom and dustpan or collect them by hand, he said.

A report by Keep America Beautiful, an organization that focuses on litter reduction and prevention, said the cottonlike fiber inside cigarette filters is not biodegradable and contains chemicals that pose health threats to animals that ingest the products.

Steve Callahan, a Phillip Morris USA spokesman, said his company provides money to Keep America Beautiful.

“Phillip Morris USA is committed to reducing the environmental impact of our products,” he said.

Rich Erwin, a Landcare mechanic, said he sees a couple of hundred cigarette butts a day near the University hospital smoking area.

“It’s out of control,” Erwin said.

Aside from cigarette butts, said Kate O’Connor, Landcare employee and dental hygiene junior, she has picked up some unusual garbage during her shift.

“I’ve found glasses, hubcaps, toys, beer cans and (pornographic magazines),” she said. “People are going to litter no matter what.”

Art junior Krista Johnson said she has been a smoker for six years and usually smokes a pack and a half a day.

Johnson said most of the time she puts out her cigarettes and puts the butts in her pocket.

She admitted to throwing the butts over the Washington Avenue Bridge or in flower beds on occasion.

“I didn’t want to hold onto them anymore,” she said.

If students reduced litter on campus by half, Landcare workers could spend more time making the campus look better, Hawkinson said.

Hawkinson said he asks students to be accountable for the trash they produce.

“This is your campus. This is what you should be proud of,” he said.