Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance launched a countywide anti-litter and clean-up campaign on Thursday at Lutherville Laboratory Elementary School.
To start off the Team BCPS Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge, the two officials led some 300 kindergarten through third-grade students, most clad in varying shades of green T-shirts, in rousing choruses of the campaign's mantra, "Don't Drop It! Don't Drop It! Pick It Up!" the kids emphasizing the rhythm with hand claps and arm waves.
"Moms, dads, any adult you see," Dance told the kids, "tell them 'Don't Drop It! Don't Drop It! Pick It Up!"
Through the Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge, county schools along with community group supporters will compete from May 8 through the end of June to conduct 15-minute litter clean-ups and anti-littering outreach. Groups are asked to report their clean-ups on the BCPS website at bcps.org/teambcps. Several winning schools will be awarded grants by the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools.
"We can make a real difference in the county," Kamenetz told the children, who were seated on the grass in front of him in the school's outdoor garden.
And, he said, "Who doesn't like prizes?"
Kamenetz said Lutherville Laboratory School was chosen as the site for the kickoff announcement because it is one of 50 green, or environmentally friendly, public schools in the county.
All county schools are encouraged to participate. Other groups, like scout troops, youth groups, places of worship, civic and community groups, sports teams and businesses, can pair up with schools and compete as well. All they have to do is form a team and designate a county school to receive credit for their work. Teams' efforts will be recorded on the BCPS website.
"Do you know how long it takes an aluminum can to decompose — to break down?" Kamenetz asked the children. "300 years." A glass bottle takes one million years; a cigarette butt, 10 years.
"We've brought clean-up efforts into the schools," said Deborah Phelps, head of the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Schools.
Phelps announced that the foundation will award the prizes in the form of grants for school-based instructional programs that emphasize environmental literacy. Examples could be a establishing a rain garden, planting trees or initiating an environmental education project.
The grand prize of a $4,000 grant will be given to a single school. A first-place prize of a $2,000 grant each will be given to the winning elementary, middle and high school. A STEM Resource Enrichment Experience conducted by Hot Spots Extended Care Programs Inc. will go to each second-place elementary, middle and high school.
The Morning Sun
Bigger litter issue
In addition to county schools and the Education Foundation of Baltimore County, the Baltimore County of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) is also collaborating in the Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge. Sponsors of the challenge include Comcast, Hot Spots Extended Care programs and Maryland Environmental Service.
The challenge is a precursor to a countywide trash reduction strategy EPS is currently developing. EPS will submit the strategy to the Maryland Department of the Environment by December of 2014. The strategy calls for "listening sessions" at three locations around the county, to get citizen input on addressing the trash issue.
EPS' strategy focuses on litter in rivers, streams and lakes in the county. Litter on the land eventually ends up in the water. Illegal dumping is another problem. The trash from county streams and rivers eventually adds to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.
EPS has developed a long-term trash monitoring program for the Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls watershed. These two areas account for about 55,000 acres of the county's approximately 383,000 acres.
Yet, in 2013, the county collected 1,314 pounds of trash from 30 sampling sites in the two areas alone. Of that, 35 pounds were plastic bottles and more than 43 pounds were aluminum cans.
As Kamenetz told the Lutherville Laboratory students, "We are taking action to make things better for the next generation."